The Importance of Anatomy and Physiology

Knowledge of anatomy and physiology is essential for massage therapists, and these two areas of study are the cornerstones of providing a good massage to clients.

The more you learn about anatomy and how the body works, the more proficient you will become in massage therapy.

It is important to recognize the role anatomy and physiology play in providing a quality massage session. Do you know what the fascial line is? How can the neck make the arm go numb? How does a trigger point in the calf lead to a headache? If you are passionate about helping to restore clients’ health and vitality, then you’ll understand the relevance of these questions.

Stay Current

As you study to become a massage therapist, be prepared to stay up-to-date on industry research and continue your education throughout your career. Currently, most states plus the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy and require therapists to continue their education on a regular basis in order to continue to practice.

Building professional relationships with industry peers, or with clients, is built on trust and your ability to demonstrate your sound knowledge of all areas that influence, and are influenced by, massage therapy. Discussing massage therapy and its holistic benefits is important, so make sure you have all the latest facts and research at hand. If you want to talk to your clients about tissue flexibility; muscle relaxation; improved range of motion; reduction of muscle spasms and cramps; relief of myofascial trigger points and neuromuscular pressure points; and enhanced collagen remodeling during a healing cycle, then you better know your anatomy and physiology inside and out.

Serious Study

Anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology require serious study, and can be learned and revisited in various ways, including textbooks, videos, charts, models and online courses.

An excellent knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology will allow you to see beneath your hands and understand the effects of your massage techniques. You will understand how healthy tissue feels in contrast to areas that are tense or painful. You can also ask clients to perform certain joint exercises so you can locate specific muscles and identify them to your client.

Health Education

Understanding anatomy is also essential to a therapist’s own health and comfort. If you experience sore thumbs, tired arms and low-back pain while learning massage therapy techniques, then you need to understand how your muscles can adapt to posture, treatment positions and stances to help alleviate these problems. Understanding anatomy and kinesiology isn’t helpful if you’re uncomfortable and contributing to your own problems.

As you learn more about anatomy and physiology, you will find yourself automatically correcting your own gait and posture, and noticing when clients present with problems you can help them address.

Help your clients to help themselves. When identifying a knot, use your knowledge to help explain the inner workings of this knot to your client. If pain is clearly causing a client to suffer, then a massage practitioner familiar with neuromuscular therapy will be able to suggest a course of action that will identify, locate and address the source of pain.

Training in Anatomy and Physiology

At least 150 hours of anatomy and physiology training should be included in your massage therapy education. You should know your tendinous tissue from overlapped muscles, and whether a tight muscle needs to be stretched, iced or rested.

If you want to specialize in a technique, such as sports massage, then becoming an expert in anatomy is key. While working as a sports massage therapist, you will need to have a good general understanding of sports, as well as the type of athletes you treat. If a client presents with pain, you will need to determine if it is referred pain or not. You will need to know about the stresses placed on specific joints, limbs and muscles during sports training and competitive events. You will also need to offer advice about subsequent rehabilitation for sports injuries, as well as work alongside teams of doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and other health professionals.

Even after graduating from massage school, refresher courses on anatomy and physiology are always available and a wise choice for any serious-minded therapist. There are also many opportunities to take advanced courses and extend your anatomy and physiology knowledge. Developing a fascination with how the body works should be a lifelong pursuit.

About the Author

Zach Montgomery is managing director of American 3B Scientific, a top massage therapy equipment supplier.