by Selena Belisle, Founder/Instructor, CE Institute LLC
It is important for massage therapists and bodyworkers to learn their scope of practice within their own state, city or municipal regions. In many states, the scope of massage includes the manipulation of soft tissues; however, this definition can vary from state-to-state. For example, the Florida Board of Massage allows for "chemical preparations" of the body, which might include allowing a licensed massage therapist to practice a body scrub, foot scrub or spa body wrap. But, in other states, licensed massage therapists may be prohibited from providing these types of spa therapies due to a narrower scope of practice.
Proper Training and Experience is Required for Client Service Applications
Some states may also have tricky or hypocritical scopes as well. In Florida, a licensed massage therapist scope also includes electrical applications; however, almost all massage therapists know that LMTs do not receive rudimentary training in using electricity for therapeutic purposes. So even when a scope of practice allows for techniques beyond your training, be wary of providing such a conundrum. Just because something may be within your scope of practice, does not mean it would be correct or ethical to practice it - especially when a practitioner has limited or no training in the application. It could be considered fraud, a medical error and more to apply any form of client services without proper training.
Massage Therapists do not Diagnose a Client's Medical Conditions
In any state, the scope of massage does not include medical diagnosis or other “more serious” medical procedures, i.e. surgery. Practitioners must recognize their limitations within their scope of practice, and educate clients about their scope of work, especially when a client requests work that is beyond the scope of practice. Examples include when a client asks a bodyworker about a suspicious mole on their body, the bodyworker must advise the client to see a dermatologist or other appropriate physician because the bodyworker cannot diagnose or treat suspicious moles.
Recognizing Changes in Your Client During Massage Appointments
If a client’s health is deteriorating over the course of bodywork appointments, whether it be during a single session or over a more extended period of time, the therapist should verbally recognize this with their client, and suggest the client seek appropriate medical attention for their health. For example, if a massage therapist notices a client is losing a drastic amount of weight (greater than 10% of total body mass per month), and the client is not on a diet or trying to lose this weight – then the practitioner should recommend the client to see a physician to address their changing body.
Never Operate Outside of Scope of Practice
Bodyworks should never operate outside of their scope of practice, even when:
- They may possibly know the client’s body or health better than most physicians.
- They feel they could provide better medical treatment than the treating physician for an ailment outside of a bodyworker’s scope of practice.
- Even when the client recognizes that the bodyworker is not a doctor but wants their medical advice regardless.
- A client cannot afford proper medical care.
While some massage therapists may be able to provide better care than others or none at all, it's important to not operate outside of a scope of practice, because this could put your license and the client in jeopardy. Most massage therapists want to help, but it's never helpful when working outside of your scope of practice. It's usually illegal, risky or dangerous to do so - and should be avoided at all costs.
To learn more about massage therapy practice, please click here to find or register for training: https://ceinstitute.com/
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