Massage regulation and you the consumer

Just over a year ago Pennsylvania adopted a licensure requirement for all massage therapists. The very first licenses where issued in 2011 I'm sure your wondering why this is important? Why should I care? How does this affect me as a consumer?

Before we can begin to answer any of those questions we need to look at some history.

Massage is ancient, the roots of massage are likely to be found in the soothing gestures between mother and child. In antiquity the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians anointed each others aching joints with healing oils infused with herbs, barks and spices. Along the spice route in Siam, Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese systems of medical science collided to create Thai Massage. Deep in the South Pacific Islanders called upon the Kahunas to convey messages from the gods and bring healing through touch. 

In the various cultures of South America Shaman deliver healing arts gathered from plant wisdom. Native Americans used warmed rocks and energetic touch to heal work worn muscles.  In each of these instances some level of training or apprenticeship was required of the practitioner. Families passed information down through the generations and lineage was the important credential of the practitioner. In the pre-modern era, hands on healing was a revered and venerated occupation.

Massage and Bodywork has had a long and sordid history on the puritanical East Coast of America. Until 20 years ago massage was primarily found in the realm of physical therapy, fitness and in association with red light districts. In the City of Philadelphia a mere mention of the word massage on a business privilege license stirs a large pot of bubbling bureaucracy and red tape. Until 2011 anyone could take a short weekend class or read a book about massage and legally set out their shingle as a professional. 

For years massage therapists and bodyworkers have fought to create a standard of education and bring our profession a newfound respect among the public and medical field. Now with the State of Pennsylvania’s blessing we can proceed in business holding our heads high and begin to change the world one massage at a a time.

Licensure requires certain standards of education such as 500 hours of study at an accredited massage school and completion of a national exam.That education may slightly vary in the styles of massage taught but always includes anatomy, physiology, pathology and ethics. For every license renewal an applicant must submit evidence of 24 hours of continuing education. Continuing education gives individuals the opportunity to follow their interests and create service specialties. 

Some of the questions I have heard frequently in my practice has been “ Why haven’t other massage therapists been able to see and help this problem before?”, “ Why is your massage so much more effective?” “ How can your massage hurt less AND have longer lasting results for my body?” 

Without sounding elite, I always site a well rounded in depth education that offered immersion in both eastern and western massage theory and technique. Until the licensure bill passed massage programs could vary anywhere from 50-200 hours of hands on education.

Without licensure standards choosing a massage therapist can be a bit like Russian roulette- you never know what you may recieve in an MT as far as knowledge and scope of practice are concerned.

Without some sort of standardization how can one be sure that they are really getting the treatment one has sought out? 

Licensure will never guarantee a high quality massage that hits every pinnacle of customer service but it will help ensure your therapist knows basic anatomic structure, is aware of contraindications for common conditions, and knows when to refer you to someone with more experience. Licensure helps to streamline the education process and standardize terminology so we can begin to dialogue with doctors, nurses and the medical community at large. Licensure sets standards for sterilization practices, draping protocols and exposure of the client, scope of practice and ethics conformity. 

In the longterm Massage Therapists hope that licensure will give them enough credibility to begin seeing insurance companies support the use of massage within standard healthcare coverage. It would be great to see Massage Therapists working to reduce stress and the physical discomforts of disease side by side with Doctors and medical staff. 

Personally I would like to see licensure go a step further and help distinguish those of us who have gone the extra mile with our education. Perhaps we can develop tiers of licensure so that those with more drive and intention can seek a higher level of licensure. Academics and longevity in the field are equally important to cultivate a positive quality of touch, so those who have been learning form the school of life should not be discounted either. 

When you arrive for a massage you should be able to see your therapists license and ask questions on the types of massage they practice. Ask about your MT’s education, their interests and what they feel is their best service or style of massage. 

Know your conditions and injuries and be prepared to discuss them. Let your MT know what is important for your session. Do you have a chronic condition that is flaring up? Are you concerned about reduced range of motion from a 20 year old injury? Is a massage incomplete for you without a scalp massage? Even things as trivial as preferring the sound of wind chimes to piano solos or hating the scent of lavender can make all the difference to you so don’t hold back. 

Know that first impressions and gut feelings are always important cues to listen to. You will find it hard to relax if you feel unsafe, unheard or even worse you are in pain. Speak up about the level of pressure, Therapeutic discomfort is very different from pain. If you can’t breathe because the massage stoke is too intense for you, it wont do you any good to suffer through what the MT is dishing out. On the other hand, enough pressure should be employed to help coax the muscle into lengthening and relaxing. Less is often more in the realm of coaxing muscle tissue. However every individual responds to stimulus a bit differently, so as you build rapport with your MT they may try different approaches to the same problem to see what works best for your body. During your massage let your therapist know of what is  and is not working for you.

The body produces some of the best mood altering chemicals available in response to touch. If you seek a thrill akin to skydiving or an invigorating heart pumping experience head out for experiential activity instead. Massage is for physical healing and restoration of the body mind connection.

Finding out more about your practitioner and what they offer can make the difference between receiving a mediocre massage and a custom tailored experience that leaves you feeling better ways you couldn't imagine. Knowing that your MT is accredited trained and licensed should give you even more reason to surrender to their skilled touch. 

Once you have found a licensed  Massage Therapist that you click with make sure to tell your circles and networks all about them. Don’t be afraid to introduce them to your extended healthcare team if you see their services as a benefit.  Word of mouth is genuine approval in action and builds a great community around you and your practitioner. 

Six Fishes Blog

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Welcome to Six Fishes new website! Although I have always received great feedback about the old site, it was in needs of refreshing. We have...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just over a year ago Pennsylvania adopted a licensure requirement for all massage therapists. The very first licenses where issued in 2011 I'm...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Well known psychologist Laura S. Brown, wrote about her healing experience with acupuncture in the Psychology of Women Quarterly.

Healing ARTicles

  • Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore...

  • "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam,...

  • "Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore...

  • Invidunt expetenda quo eu, vero inani epicuri vix no. Mei vocent singulis necessitatibus ut, volumus eligendi petentium nam eu. Perpetua intellegam...