Massage therapy is recognized as an effective healing treatment even by mainstream medicine today. There are various massage therapy styles that benefit a wide range of medical conditions. Reflexology, acupressure and craniosacral therapy have been proven to give both instantaneous pain relief and long term curative effects. Deep tissue massage and sports massage are often part of rehabilitation medicine regimens. Even pregnant women can avail of a special type of pregnancy massage. Even if you are in good health, you can still improve your wellbeing with shiatsu. For any type of massage therapy to be truly effective, though, you should approach only a licensed massage therapist or an LMT.
So how does one become a licensed massage therapist in the United States? The first requirement is proper education. Courses in massage therapy include an average of 500 hours of study on anatomy, physiology, pathology, kinesiology, massage theory and techniques, first aid and CPR, hydrotherapy, clinical practice, sanitation as well as business, communication, ethical and legal issues. Actual hands-on experience is also required. Schools coordinate with the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) to ensure that standards are being met.
Thirty nine states in the US offer registration, certification or licensure for massage therapists, while 38 states specifically require it in order to practice. Thirty two of those states use the certification program of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork which deems the therapist Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB) after successfully passing tests. Certification may also be earned through a specified process of proving a certain amount and quality of training and experience.
Registration means a massage therapist has been listed as having met a certain educational requirement. Certification means the massage therapist has met certain higher educational criteria. Licensure is the highest regulatory level and requires a more rigorous process.
The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards certification exam called MBLEx is accepted by 13 states. Many states will accept State Endorsement when a massage therapist has already been licensed in another state provided that the written and practical examination is equivalent to or more rigorous than their examination, and the licensing authority is as strict or is stricter than their own.
Without a previous license, a massage therapist has to meet the minimum educational requirements and pass the practical and written examination of a state. In certain states the educational requirement may consist of a minimum number of hours specializing in massage therapy if the applicant already holds a license in an approved health related field in the same state. Such fields may include being a medical doctor, registered nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, doctor of chiropractic or licensed practical nurse.
Various towns and counties also have their own regulations covering massage therapy and therapists. Most of these regulations guard against the abuse of the profession and may require fingerprinting, clearance from certain diseases including venereal disease, prohibition on making house calls and prohibition on giving massage services to the opposite gender. These are not meant to demean professional massage therapists but, on the contrary, seek to protect the profession from being used maliciously by unscrupulous parties.
Sadly, one of the most common reasons why people go to a licensed massage therapist these days is for treatment after an auto accident. Often, a licensed massage therapist also does insurance billing for people in auto accidents. This is convenient for the patient and the family who will not have to go through tedious paperwork and can instead concentrate on healing and overcoming trauma. This is just another advantage of going to a licensed massage therapist.