What is Massage Therapy (in Malaysia context)?

By Ian Chow, Certified Massage Therapist

Length: 3 mins read (649 words)

In general and as simple as possible, massage therapy is the manipulation of the body soft tissue primarily with the usage of hands-on and manual techniques. When we say soft tissue, it can refers to muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves, fibrous tissues, fat, blood vessels, and synovial membranes.

In Malaysia, there are two main umbrellas of massage therapy which are treatment based (with medical approach) and those which cater for general wellness (more for relaxation and as part of tourism activity). I am not saying whether one is better than the other but I do feel we are currently lacking of appropriate regulation or standard operating procedure to govern each one more effectively. Do read this article which I have written earlier to differentiate between the two.

Nevertheless, there are many massage modalities that one can choose from in Malaysia but some of the common one include Swedish massage, Thai massage, Tuina massage, Malay Traditional massage, Ayurvedic massage and sport injury massage. Meanwhile, there are also group of massage therapists (including my goodself) whom are trained in oncology massage (massage for cancer patient or survivor) and senior citizen massage. And there are those who mixes a few massage modalities to adapt and to achieve the best result in a treatment session.

In a lot of countries, massage therapy is considered as a complementary treatment to a lot of conditions and may even work alongside with physiotherapist and chiropractor when attending to a client. However in Malaysia, this is not the case at most of the time. At this juncture, massage is not recognised wholly under the Malaysia Traditional And Complementary Medicine Act 2016. I do wish to see it change especially for treatment massage therapist like myself who does not fall under any of the current categorisation.

I am aware that there are conversation that perhaps one of the better way to govern these two umbrellas is via different Ministry i.e. treatment massage to fall under Ministry of Health meanwhile wellness massage under Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. I do agree with this stance.

In terms of massage education, despite there being a few private massage schools, local university faculties and Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran (via Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia programme) that offer certificate level massage education, a lot of the therapists actually pick up the skill from peers without going through formal massage training. Some with years of practice will be able to hone up their skill and be competent but a lot who don’t.

Being a massage therapist is not considered as a high grading job here. Most times, it is viewed as a profession that cater to those who does not excel academically hence with no choice but to learn a vocational skill. Previously, it was also classified as a “non-essential” industry in the eye of the powers that be when tackling the Covid-19 pandemic vs the economy sector reopening.

In Malaysia (or perhaps generally in Asia country), there are establishment that disguise massage as a front for sexual services offering which on a bigger picture, this could also be a front for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. This certainly does hurt the industry reputation further and affect how the general public view of the industry.

These are my aim being in this industry, to be part of the catalyst in advocating changes in this industry. Massage is not just for relaxation, a birthday gift, a bonus for staff, a reward for yourself or a front for any vice activity; it is a serious industry that provide job opportunities, contribute to the country economy growth, plus, a necessities for anyone and everyone due to the benefit that it brings. It is a reputable profession due to the positive health changes that we can impact on an individual (especially those living with life limiting conditions).

Quoting the message I received from Mdm Chandrika Puventhran – Massage Therapist, Trainer and Workshop Facilitator (plus, she is also my coach for Oncology Massage), “We must be the voice of advocation on the immense benefits massage therapy is able to offer, from tactile approaches towards delicate and serious illness to deep tissue and sports massage for recovery. It is high time to overhaul the perception of massage industry in Malaysia”.

Next: Massage Contraindication
Next: Top 10 Massage Myths

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Ian Chow 周 奕 延

Your personal massage therapist who enjoy frequent massages and staycations

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