Exploring this Job

If you can afford it, consider going to several different massage therapists who offer different types of massage. Ask if you can set up an information interview with various kinds of massage therapists, including myotherapists. Explain that you are interested in pursuing this career and come to the interview prepared to ask questions. What is your educational background? Why were you drawn to the job? What is the best part of this work?

A less costly approach is to find books on massage instruction on the Internet, or at a local public library or bookstore. Massage techniques can then be practiced at home. Books on self-massage are available, and many books discuss in detail the theoretical basis for the techniques. Online videos that demonstrate massage techniques are available as well.

Consider volunteering at a hospice, nursing home, or shelter. This work will give you experience in caring for others and help you develop good listening skills. As a myotherapist, it is important for you to listen well and respond appropriately to your clients' needs. The therapist must make clients feel comfortable, and volunteer work can help you learn the skills necessary to achieve this.

The Job

Myotherapy, also called trigger point therapy or neuromuscular massage therapy, is a method of relieving pain, improving circulation, and alleviating muscle spasms. Myotherapists identify the source of pain, called a trigger point, and erase it by the use of applied pressure to these tender spots.

Through the Bonnie Prudden School of Physical Fitness and Myotherapy, students are taught the Prudden method of myotherapy, in addition to anatomy, physiology, exercise, and physical fitness. Classes such as modern dance, drawing, and live sculpture are also offered to encourage students to analyze how the human body moves. After completion of the program, students are given an exam and are required to undergo recertification at the school every two years.

A first-time consultation begins with a thorough history of the patient. Pain could be the result of an old injury or accident or due to the patient's background and lifestyle. Weakness and muscle injury is accumulated throughout a lifetime. Once weak spots are created in the muscle, both physical and emotional stress can cause the spots to go into painful spasms. Myotherapists get rid of spasms by using their fingers, knuckles, or elbows to apply pressure to these trigger points. As muscles relax, the patient is relieved of pain. Afterwards the muscle is taught to remain loose and lengthened through the use of exercises. Myotherapists also teach the patient several corrective exercises to do at home.

Myotherapy works on pain as long as the source is muscular, not systemic. It has shown to be effective for alleviating pain caused by arthritis, bursitis, scoliosis, sciatica, and even pain associated with lupus, AIDS, and muscular dystrophy.

Patients are referred to a pain control center by a medical physician, osteopath, chiropractor, or acupuncturist. Usually, patients have already undergone the battery of X-rays, tests, and procedures to ensure pain is not structural in origin. For new patients, a health history and assessment is taken. Patients may then take the Kraus-Weber Minimum Muscular Fitness Test for Key Posture Muscles. Divided into six tests for different muscle masses, it gauges the flexibility and strength of a person's muscles.

Myotherapists use a trigger point pain chart to mark down the sources of a patient's pain. Once a trigger point is found, the patient identifies its intensity by grading it on a scale of one to 10—one being mild, and 10 almost unbearable. Each location is color marked on the paper chart to indicate the type of pain and the date it is erased.

Patients arrive for treatments barefooted and wearing loose clothing. Using the completed pain chart, trigger points are identified and erased. The location of a trigger point determines the amount and length of pressure applied—on average, seven seconds for most body areas and four to five seconds for the face and head. Tools such as the crook (a metal rod shaped like a shepherd's hook) and the bodo (a wooden dowel) are used to give the myotherapist greater extension and also to help fight fatigue. Small bodos are used to work the hands and feet, while larger bodos are helpful in working larger muscle masses such as the quadriceps and gluteus.

Once the muscles are relaxed, they need to be maintained with exercises specially designed for the patient's problem areas. Patients and their helpers are instructed in the proper way to conduct maintenance exercises to help keep the muscles strong and flexible. These exercises also help improve coordination, strength, and posture.