Massage Therapy Scope of Practice

Massage Therapy Scope of Practice

by Sandy Fritz

Massage is one form of manual therapy. Massage Therapy can be considered a manual therapy specialization.

In the health and wellness sector, massage therapy can be a stand-alone approach to support wellbeing and self-care prevention and management of stress and stress related issues massage can be an autonomous practice. When dysfunction and pathology is present, massage therapy, within the broader manual therapy spectrum, is indicated within interdisciplinary medical care.

Scope of practice respect and violation needs consideration. In an interdisciplinary team, the professional with the broadest scope of practice and the most education required for entry level practice would be responsible for the plan of care and delegation of portions of the treatment plan to the specialists within the team. Remember, massage is the massage therapist's specialization.

The various occupations using similar manual therapy methods need to determine who is best to perform the assessment and specific intervention and refer if another professional is more specifically trained and experienced. For example, in a health and wellness setting a massage therapist may incorporate aspects of fluid movement (example: lymphatic focus), BUT this same method would be out of scope for a massage therapist if pathology exists unless part of an interdisciplinary team and delegated to perform the method.

Another example: In a general massage session a massage therapist can incorporate safe stretching methods BUT in a sport and fitness setting the athletic trainer is better trained and should be professional providing stretching as an intervention.

It is ok to learn and augment massage therapy with other manual therapy approaches so long as scope of practice is respected. And the manual therapy methods other than massage SHOULD NOT replace massage as the primary approach used by massage therapists.

If you want to call yourself a "manual therapist" and you are working under a massage therapy license and scope of practice, I would suggest that there is an ethical concern.

If you want to practice autonomously as a manual therapist, but do not want to practice massage therapy, then maybe actually committing to the academic training to become a physical therapist, chiropractor, or osteopathic physician is the ethical thing to do or practice massage therapy as part of an interdisciplinary team.

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Sandy Fritz a well renowned massage therapist with more than 35 years of experience. She dedicates her time to writing massage texts for Mosby Publishing (Elsevier), educating, consulting, teaching, and providing massage to a mixed clientele. You can view or purchase Sandy's textbooks at:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of CE Institute LLC.

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