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Massage Today
April, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 04

Build a Specialized Practice Taking a Dissection Seminar

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

There are many ways to build a positive reputation that will make you and your massage practice stand out. In all professions, from attorneys and accountants to medical doctors and massage therapists, advanced study and skillful application of that knowledge creates specialists. Specialists are not only sought out, but typically are able to charge a premium for their services.

In addition to specializing in countless modalities, a massage therapist has the opportunity to become a specialist in the study of the human body via an educational, hands-on, full-body dissection seminar. This article will discuss how taking a dissection seminar can help you build your practice and become a specialist in your community. By learning more about the body, you are better able to assess, treat and educate your patients.

Is More Knowledge Better?

One thing that massage therapists have in common with doctors, regardless of whether the therapist works in a spa, a private clinic, or a chiropractic, physical therapy or medical office, is that they see a range of individuals, each with a unique combination of symptoms, complaints and outcomes. Most would agree that the more knowledge a physician has about a particular system of the body, the better they are at assessing, diagnosing and developing a treatment plan. However, it also is important for doctors to understand the other systems of the body and how they will be affected by various treatment plans.

The same is true for massage therapists. You might be an excellent massage therapist, however, that doesn't mean you won't benefit substantially by expanding your knowledge base of the human body. That is where participating in a dissection seminar can put you at a major advantage in your chosen massage modality, be it Swedish massage, Myofascial Release (MFR), Craniosacral Therapy (CST), Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) or any other modality.

The Dissection Experience

full body dissection - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Massage Therapists performing a full body dissection at the University of South Florida, College of Medicine. Performing dissection is a rare educational opportunity for most health care professionals, especially massage therapists. A full-body dissection seminar is a rare opportunity for most health care professionals, especially massage therapists. Textbook imagery and DVDs of dissection are great educational tools, but they can never replace the experience of seeing and touching the very tissues that comprise the human body. A dissection seminar allows massage therapists to learn about the body in a manner similar to a doctor. Participants move through the body, layer by layer, examining and comparing tissues, and the discoveries are nothing short of amazing. Seminar students find everything from replacement knee and hip joints to pacemakers and heart-replacement valves.

Have you ever wondered what the tissues look like under your patient's scars? Or how these tissues were affected by a knee or hip joint replacement? Have you ever wondered what an artery filled with plaque looks like or how easy or difficult it is to break a piece of plaque off the arterial wall during a massage? What does the inside of the chest cavity look like after the sternum has been cut in half and the chest has been spread apart for bypass surgery? Or what about the wrist that has experienced a carpel-tunnel release procedure?

full body dissection - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Therapists see and touch every tissue of the body as they dissect, layer by layer, examining and comparing each structure for size and shape with multiple different cadavers in the lab at the same time. Would it be helpful for you to see and touch cancerous tissues? How valuable would it be to see, touch and compare the same muscle, such as a bicep or trapezius, on multiple specimens of different body types and genders at the same time? Are you curious about how the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle tendons merge to form the Achilles tendon? Or the relationship between the sciatic nerve and the piriformis muscle? Would you like to see how close a surgeon gets to the spinal cord during a laminectomy? All of these and more can be discovered in the dissection lab.

Clarity in the Treatment Room

Dissection has helped me better understand the effects of postural distortions and improper biomechanics from the impact of various surgical procedures. Dissection has also helped me understand the positions and stresses of the myofascial tissues and "see" them as 3D holograms in my head.

For example, I now understand how during bypass surgery (a common procedure among patients), the great saphenous vein is removed from the lower extremity. This is what causes the long scar on the medial side of a patient's thigh and leg. I also now know exactly what structure was removed and how deep it was embedded in the thigh and leg. I have seen how it was reattached and used for coronary bypass surgery. I know exactly what tissues and systems of the body were affected during the operation and how the tissues healed. The dissection process allows you as a massage therapist to see through both the doctor's eyes and the patient's body at the same time, giving you greater clarity and insight in the treatment room with your patients.

Join Me

Although there are many ways to learn about the body, a dissection seminar allows you to see many of the common procedures and dysfunction people experience during the course of a lifetime. Attending a dissection seminar offers a very special understanding of the body, as well as new insights and ways of applying massage techniques. To become a specialist, one must pursue advanced education. For more information about upcoming seminars, please visit

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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