Saturday, February 22, 2014

What to do with ELAP???

What to do with ELAP???

My opinion is –accept it as the foundation (core) for entry level massage therapy training.  Finally! There are a few of us “elders” around that have wrestled with this issue for way too many years. I am ready to check it off my  “to do list”.   Now we can get on with other important issues that will influence the future of massage therapy.

Here are the definitions of massage and bodywork from the ELAP blueprint.

Bodywork: A broad term that refers to many forms, methods, and styles including

massage, that positively influence the body through various methods that may or may not

include soft-tissue deformation, energy manipulation, movement reeducation, and

postural reeducation.

Health-care-oriented massage: Massage performed in medical or health-care-oriented

environments to facilitate therapeutic change, condition management, or symptom


Massage: The ethical and professional application of structured, therapeutic touch to

benefit soft-tissue health, movement, posture, and neurological patterns.

Wellness-oriented massage: Massage performed in wellness- or relaxation-oriented

environments to facilitate stress reduction, relaxation, or wellness. ELAP Blueprint p 47.

One of the most vexing issues facing the profession is the relationship of massage to bodywork.  They are not the same but because the concepts are presented as a unit is confuses the issues especially the movement toward evidence informed massage practice.  And if you notice the ELAP definitions combined yet separated the definitions just as the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge MTBOK did.  I hate to admit it but I think this is going to be an ongoing issue and point of confusion.

The confusion does not come from massage. Massage is actually a concrete and easily studied method. Now that the ELAP described the application in terms of methods that influence soft tissue by creating mechanical forces the ability to develop study protocols can be objectified.   For example:  Gliding with sufficient pull /push to generate a tension force on the superficial fascia for 30 seconds will result in….. Well we don’t know yet what the result will be but at least we can study it more objectively.

ELAP finial report p 168

● Present and discuss these terms:

o Soft-tissue deformation (e.g., the change in the shape of soft tissue as a result of

applied forces, etc.).

o Forces (e.g., something that internally or externally causes the movement of the

body to change or soft-tissue structures to deform, etc.).

o Tissue load (e.g., the amount of stress soft-tissue structures are under due to

forces; too much load and the tissue might fail and be injured).

● Present and discuss the way external forces create loads on soft tissue (e.g., forces

create external loads by pushing or pulling on the body in a variety of ways).

● Present and discuss the way internal forces create loads on soft tissue (e.g.,

misaligned joints or poor body mechanics cause soft tissue to shorten, tighten,

lengthen and/or weaken, which may load surrounding tissue; for example, a tight

muscle or tendon could compress a nerve running close by and cause pain or

dysfunction, etc.).

● Review the properties and characteristics of soft tissue that allow it to benefit from

deformation (e.g., thixotropy, viscoelasticity, piezoelectricity, adhesiveness, etc.).

● Present and discuss the categories of forces:

o Primary forces (e.g., compression, tension, and shear, etc.).

o Combined forces (e.g., two forces acting at the same time on a soft-tissue

structure: torsion and bending).


This foundation is a measurable, observable component of massage as now described by ELAP.  It is a familiar language in multiple disciplines from engineering to bio mechanics and human performance. No one made it up, it is not unique and explaining what we do in this way supports interdisciplinary communication as well as research. Here is an example

For those who like to get their fascia in a twist about intuition and artful application and empathic connection and compassion- just hold on--- these human connection elements are important and, by the way not, limited to massage therapist or bodyworkers.  The therapeutic relationship is essential in the benefit of any professional exchange.  

So---to answer the question posed—What to do with ELAP ???

Right now read it.  It is really long and detailed but start here:  Final Report  pg. 60-256.  

Make some notes. Compare and contrast the content with what you understand in the document and what you don’t. If you are an educator compare the content to the textbooks you use, your lesson plans and so forth. None of the textbooks have every single piece of content or the exact language used in the ELAP document and that is OK.  I compared the textbooks I have written and feel very confident in the relationship of the textbook content and the ELAP.  I am familiar with the other entry level textbooks (all of us authors read each other’s stuff ya know) and none of them are that far away from the information in the ELAP.  No one has to throw out their current curriculum. Just tweak it.  Compare the hours recommendations to your current program. You don’t have to change anything and likely will find that the way you are teaching the ELAP material is pretty close.

Scan through the Blue print document for teaching ideas. You don’t have to do everything the way the ELAP documents describe, but new ideas are good –right? 

For those of you that might be wondering what is next on my “ list” here is a preview—

ü  Standardized  entry level curriculum—done!

ü  Board Certification for those who want to differentiate from entry level—done!

ü  Board Certification used for college credit transfer toward academic degrees---done!

ü  Teachers standards for massage educators—done!


·        Teacher training for massage educators----next on list

·        Independent professional analysis of ergonomics and bio mechanics for massage practice---next on list.

·        Sorting out the continuing education issue for massage and –the confusing element bodywork—next on the list.


Ø  Combining meetings for educators through cooperation among the AMTA, ABMP, and the AFMTE so that instead of multiple meetings, which is a time and financial expense, one meeting presented as a cooperative venture is provided.

Ø  Having professional meetings presented in online webinar or similar platform as well as in person attendance so more people can stay informed.  We have the technology to do this people.

Ø  Specialty certifications through NCBTMB-on the list


There is more but I ready to concentrate on the goals for teacher training and, so very important, the issue of burn out and massage therapists leaving the field because they are unable to earn a sustaining income with one of the reasons being unable to do enough massage sessions without hurting themselves.   As a profession we must do something about this.


1 comment:

  1. Great post, and especially the very last paragraph. It doesn't matter how good we are at getting people into the field if we can't stop the bleeding, and keep people in the field. Let's move on.