Complementary is a word that can be confusing to many people. As a practitioner of massage therapy or bodywork, there is a better chance you know what this word means, and it has nothing to do with making praise or flattering comments. The word complementary means to complete or combine in a way that enhances the overall scenario.

Oftentimes, massage therapy and bodywork are referred to as complementary medicine, because these hands-on occupations are thought to help complete the circle of health care, combining with traditional forms of medicine to enhance a person’s overall wellness.

There is another way to think about the word complementary, and that is in regard to your own daily practice as a massage therapist or bodyworker. Some of the most successful practitioners of healthy touch have found ways to create complementary skill sets, offering each client the right combination of modalities to best enhance the overall session.

What it means to create a complementary skill set will be totally dependent on you as a massage therapist or bodyworker, as well as the personality of your practice and composition of your client base. For example, the massage therapist who works mostly with athletes and clients who come in complaining about specific conditions, such as frozen shoulder or lower back pain, may want to combine a far different set of skills than the bodyworker who deals mostly with people seeking release from mental tension and emotional blocks.

In the case of the massage therapist described above, he likely already has a strong base in deep-tissue massage therapy, thus the composition of his client base. In order to complement and build upon this foundation, the massage therapist may wish to learn myofascial release, as well as trigger point therapy and other such techniques.

This is where continuing education classes become crucial, for they are the place where such complementary skill sets can be secured. The massage therapist could find research to find continuing education courses on myofascial release, then start with the most basic class and decide from there whether he wants to work his way up through the ranks of continuing education classes until he has reached the most advanced level of skills in myofascial release.

Another great way to interpret the word complementary in your own practice is by bringing on new techniques that will help you, as the practitioner, most enjoy your daily hands-on work. For instance, if you are afraid that all the deep work you are doing may be taking a toll on your hands and body as a whole, consider a continuing education course in body mechanics, to refresh your memory about these important concepts and possibly learn several new aspects of body mechanics.

There is also the option of enrolling in continuing education classes to learn less touch heavy forms of healing, such as reiki or craniosacral therapy. By adding such complementary items to your practice menu, or blending them into each session, you and your clients stand to benefit.

–Brandi Schlossberg