Advancing your skills as a touch therapist can mean carving out a niche for yourself as an expert in the field of massage therapy and bodywork, especially for specific conditions. It is hard to earn the label of expert without first learning as much as you can about your chosen skill set.

This is where continuing education for massage therapists and bodyworkers comes in handy. The wide array of continuing education options available to practitioners of healthy touch makes it possible to hone so many different hands-on techniques.

For instance, a massage therapist who only recently graduated from bodywork school may be content practicing his or her basic skills, using a few practiced sequences and trying out new ways of performing healthy touch when the situation is right for it.

However, after a while, this practitioner may be ready to take those skills to a more advanced level. With a solid education and a good amount of experience, a massage therapist or bodyworker should do well with more advanced techniques.

The desire to learn more may be especially strong in those practitioners who have clients they would like to help but cannot due to limited skill sets. A client, for example, may present with shoulder pain he thinks has been caused by strenuous rock climbing, a hobby he does not want to give up. The massage therapist or bodyworker with basic skills should be able to provide some relief to the shoulder pain, but the practitioner with more advanced techniques may be able to do even more.

A continuing education class that falls into the category of sports massage may be the best bet for the touch therapist hoping to better help clients with specific areas of injury, such as the shoulder pain experienced by the rock-climbing client in the example above. In such a case, the massage therapist might even sign up for a course that specifically addresses shoulder pain.

Moving beyond the basics of massage for relaxation and the temporary relief of aches and pain, a continuing education course in sports massage for the shoulder might teach its students to identify possible causes and contributing factors for the condition. These might be muscle imbalances, structural misalignment, trigger points, movement dysfunction or a combination of the above.

The ability to identify such factors certainly begins to place the bodyworker in a more advanced realm. Such higher level classes might also be teaching students basic orthopedic assessments; active, passive and resisted range of motion techniques; and palpation assessment to help isolate and determine the location and type of dysfunction.

Among the touch techniques that may be the primary focus of a sports massage class are myofascial release, trigger-point release, cross-fiber friction and muscle energy techniques, among others.

These skills may have been touched on during one’s basic massage education, but to move forward and gain an expanded understanding of such specific techniques means to move toward a more advanced level of practice. As your expertise increases, your clients’ satisfaction should as well, and in turn, you may have more clients.

—Brandi Schlossberg