One of my jobs (doesn’t everyone have more than one?) is teaching at Oregon School of Massage. I teach a class called kinesiology to aspiring massage therapists.
Kinesiology is the study human movement, so for me and my students, that means bones, joints, and muscles. Lots of muscles.
I teach two classes, one covering muscles of the upper extremities (arms) and trunk, the other covering muscles of the lower extremities (hips and legs). Oregon School of Massage has two campuses, one in Portland and one in Salem. I teach at both—Tuesdays in Salem and Wednesdays in Portland.
Massage therapy is usually thought of as a luxury, something people do to relax. In advertisements, people—women, mostly—are shown receiving a massage in some spa-like setting. But it’s much more than that. Many soft-tissue injuries—for the most part meaning muscles and connective tissue—are best treated by massage. Outside of massage, achy and strained muscles are treated with pain relievers and muscle relaxants, which are not always the best choice. Especially when there are so many other benefits of massage therapy.
So it stands to reason that massage therapists need to know about the muscles they work on. Most states regulate massage therapy and have strict requirements about what’s included in a student’s education. In Oregon, broad knowledge of kinesiology is one of those requirements. That’s where I come in.
I’ve taught kinesiology for more than eight years now. It’s one of the more difficult classes for massage students. A lot of memorization is necessary—where a given muscle connects on which bones and what the muscle does. A few muscles have only two attachments and do only one thing, but most of them have many attachments and are active in several different movements. Students need a grasp of many concepts as well. So for some students, it’s difficult to put it all together.
It’s similar to acting in a play, I tell my students. An actor who merely memorizes lines and recites them rote will not give a good performance. Good performances come from actors who can make their lines come alive. Memorizing a long list of muscles and their attachments and actions will get a student only so far. Massage is a skill to be developed, just as acting is.
A requirement for licensure is passing the dreaded Practical Exam conducted by the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists. The practical covers several areas, including massage technique, communication, pathology, and kinesiology. It’s the kinesiology part that freaks people out the most.
You can read more about my involvement with OSM and a lot of other stuff about me and some of my other jobs here, in an article written by owner and president Ray Siderius.