Question 1: Is your Massage Therapist licensed by their state or some other Local/National governing body?
I am not a fan of "The View" or Elizabeth Hasslebeck. Not that I have anything personal against either. They're just not my "cup of tea". However, today I did catch part of today's show in passing and it caught my attention.
The topic of discussion was Heath Ledger's "masseuse". As a MT, I've had all kinds of issues regarding the story surrounding his death. But I'll go into them later. Right now, I want to go into the point that may have turned me into a Hasslebeck fan.
She mentioned the fact that the "masseuse" was NOT licensed
She also informed people that BEFORE they get a massage, they should make sure that the person is LICENSED; because licensed MT's are trained in CPR.
Actually, there are more differences than that, but I didn't expect her to know or go into them. But nevertheless, I almost fell out of my seat when I heard her. Not only because it's true, but because it reminded me of a 5 part blog that had been going around in my head for about a month. The topic is "5 Questions You Should Ask Before Getting a Massage". Because, for the most part, I believe that most of the public is SADLY MISINFORMED when it comes to Massage Therapy.
In the media, a massage is portrayed as a cute thing that is usually performed by a cute blonde girl at a pool or on the beach while wearing heels and scantily clad in some form of sexy attire. That is also probably why I run across so many knuckleheaded guys on that tired "I-don't-want-no-man-massaging-me" trip. But I already wrote that blog last year. No sense in wasting time rehashing it this year, too.
The point is, massage is NEVER portrayed as anything serious or healthcare related. But people must understand something: Whenever someone works on your body, they have the potential to affect your health. Whether it be someone performing tattoos with an unsanitized needle, cutting your hair with unsanitized clippers, giving you a manicure or pedicure in a unsanitized foot or hand bowl, or yes. . .giving you a massage they lack the proper education, training or experience to perform.
So many people mistakenly believe a massage is just a cute, sexy oil or lotion rub. Something their significant other gives them as a special treat for "being good" or as a form of foreplay before the touchdown. But that is nowhere close to the work performed during a PROFESSIONAL massage. And that goes double for people using advanced massage modalities; such as Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT). A course which, by the way, was so deep at my school that I had to take it twice because I didn't feel I had a full grasp on it the first time around (I had a 100% average the second time I took it, though).
I'll never forget working in student clinic at massage school years ago when one of my clients told me how much pain she had whenever she tried to give her husband a massage. In a way I was insulted because it was clear that she actually thought the foreplay she was giving her husband was even close to being in the same league as what I was paying THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS and studying for NUMEROUS HOURS in school to learn. But I also realized that she couldn't help it. Because anyone who has been exposed to the media knows how massage is portrayed.
And the "fly-by-night" massage programs don't help matters any. I CRINGE every time I see one of those airhead commercials with some little girl gushing "In a few short months. . .I became a Massage Therapist". I'm in the industry and I would NEVER go to someone who "became a Massage Therapist in a few short months". In fact, when I hear which Massage Programs some people graduated from, I know that they will NEVER work on me. Because there are some schools have HORRENDOUS REPUTATIONS within our industry for turning out unqualified therapists who don't know what they are doing.
Also notice that I said "massage program". For the record, I graduated from a Massage School; not a program. That is, my school only taught massage. They didn't teach medical assisting in room A, computers in room B, dental assisting in room C, massage in room D, bartending in room E, paralegal in room F, etc. Everything taught in our school was related to the practice of Massage Therapy; whether on the therapeutic or administrative side.
Think it doesn't matter? OK. . .
It matters because some of those fly-by-night schools have a low rate of students who later go on to become licensed or pass National Certification exams. What does that mean? It's like a medical school where most of the students can't pass state Board exams. That means after 4 years and over $150,000 in loans, the graduates have not learned enough to receive their medical licenses. I sure wouldn't go to someone for medical attention who went through 4 years of med school and didn't learn enough to pass state boards!
So why would you go to someone who graduated from Massage School and didn't learn enough to pass their state or national licensing requirements?
For the record, when the State of Georgia began licensing Massage Therapists I was one of the first (#55). I am also Nationally Certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). I attended a year-long program at an Accredited Massage School; which is probably why I also passed the NCBTMB exam on my first try with high scores. And truthfully, at the end of our program, we suggested to the school administrator that the program really should have lasted 18 months. She agreed. However, she also understood that it would be difficult to sell students on an 18 month program; as it was difficult enough to convince some to attend a 12 month program. Especially when there are programs telling unsuspecting people that they can "become a Massage Therapist in a few short months".
In those 12 months, there was so much information crammed on us that most of us were in a constant state of overload; especially those of us who were also holding full-time jobs during the day. Contrary to popular belief, you have to learn a LOT more in massage school than just how to rub oil or lotion on somebody. I attended a 775 hour program with three SEPARATE certifications (which will be even more significant in a later blog) and we had extensive courses in Anatomy/Physiology/Pathology, Hygiene/AIDS Awareness, Ethics, Nutrition, Swedish, Sports & Restorative Therapies, Neuromuscular Therapy, Hydrotherapy, and Business. We also had to become certified in CPR before graduating. And let's not forget student clinic and homework requirements; in which we had to apply the numerous rehabilitative techniques we learned to practical applications.
Keep in mind that all of that was merely foundation. The real learning takes place actually working on clients and with other more experienced therapists. And not just from other Massage Therapists. We also learn from working with Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Osteopaths, Orthopedists, Physiatrists, and other practitioners who work with the structure and musculoskeletal functioning of the body. Such learning NEVER really ends. Which is why I also stay away from MT's who don't believe in taking Continuing Education courses and brag about how they learned all they need to know in Massage School.
That's like going to a doctor who graduated from Med School 20 years ago but hasn't learned anything since then. Have any idea how much technology changes each day? Why would you trust your health to someone who is not willing to keep up?
By the way - Georgia and NCBTMB require their therapists to complete a prescribed number of Continuing Education credits each renewal term. Another beneficial feature of licensing - in my opinion - because it will require many formerly lackadaisical MT's to sharpen and hone their skills. I think it will also cause many MT's who aren't serious about their work to FINALLY leave the industry. Because most legitimate CEU courses are not cheap. No one in their right mind is going to pay out that amount of money each year for a "hobby" or a "hookup".
The point is, Licensing is an important function because it differentiates between people who actually went to school for massage and those who are running around talking about "I do massage". I can't begin to count how many people I've met online who claimed to be MT's but got UPSET when I started asking questions about what school they attended and what they were certified in. They may be able to con "Average Joe-Blow" on the street. But I work in this industry. I know which questions to ask to ascertain whether or not the person is a legitimate MT or not.
Another important feature of Licensing is the ability for consumers to check with the respective boards to find out if your MT has any customer complaints or a criminal background. Before the State of Georgia was licensing MT's, those of us in the City of Atlanta had to go to the police department for licensing. That included being fingerprinted and having criminal background checks run EACH YEAR. I know the state performed criminal background checks but I'm not sure if they are going to do so each renewal period. However, I do know that they do have a complaint process for customers who have had problems with MT; specifically misconduct. So if you've been to a so-called MT who was inappropriate with you, PLEASE report that individual to the licensing board (and the police) and get them off the street. They make a bad name for those of us who ARE legitimate and make it 10 times as hard for us to get business!
It's hard to tell if that unlicensed MT is a convicted sex offender because no one had to run a background check on them. Hmm. . .
Some of you may still be saying. . .what difference does it make? Some of you guys may even be hoping you run across a female unlicensed MT who is a convicted sex-offender. Well, schoolboy fantasies aside. . .it does make a difference. Because that MT who doesn't know what they are doing may not know which questions to ask you before or during a session. And those questions can make a BIG difference.
They may not know that if you have certain conditions, they can't work on you (contraindications). They may not know to change their sheets and wash (disinfect) their hands between clients and expose you to some communicable disease their previous client may have had (That sexy sex-offender may have caught a raging case of herpes while being inappropriate with their last client and rub it on you next - yuck!). They may not realize your condition is outside of their scope of practice and hurt you by trying to work something they're not supposed to be working (such as trying to align your skeletal vertebrae; which is definitely Chiropractor territory). They may not know which muscles will relieve your pain conditions and which ones will aggravate them; putting you in more pain than before you started.
Moreover, if you're lying in a bed and not responsive, they may set up their table and later call Mary Kate-Olson or some other former child actor instead of performing CPR or calling 911!!!
As a LMT, I have too many issues with that story:
Firstly, I don't work in client bedrooms. So I have no idea why she'd be setting up a table in his bedroom. There are too many mixed signals in such a scenario and I wouldn't set myself up for them. Which is also another reason why I do NOT perform outcalls; especially to clients in hotels. I remember hearing students in MT school talking about how they did so and enjoyed it. And I have nothing against the ones who do. However, it’s just not something that interests me.
Secondly, I wouldn't have set up a table until I spoke with the client to find out how they were doing that day. The fact that the client was not responsive would have been my first tip-off that something wasn't right. I take health histories during my clients' initial visits and check-in with them prior to each session to find out what's going on before I do anything. For all I know, my client could be an inch from cardiac arrest. What would I look like just working on them without asking any questions first?
Thirdly, the only phone call I can think of to make when someone is not responsive is 911; not celebrities with no medical training. CPR is not always the best choice; which means you need to speak with someone who is more qualified to make that call. However, if necessary, I would have been able to perform it; since that is one of the certifications I renew along with my MT license. Not sure if it is a state requirement, but it makes sense for anyone who works on people in a healthcare/bodywork setting.
Despite all of the above information, your choice of a Massage Professional is ultimately your choice. However, as someone who works in this profession and has a wealth of "insider information", I surely would NOT let someone work on my body that is NOT licensed nor qualified to receive one. That goes for MT's or any other healthcare/bodywork professional!
To learn more about how to find a Licensed and qualified MT, please visit the following sites:
For local inquiries, please contact the Georgia Secretary of State at:
Thank you for your time,
Raleigh McKeever - State of Georgia LMT (MT000055), NMT, NCTMB
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC - A division of 180 RPM Enterprises, Inc.