Penny's Blog

Massage Therapy is a Necessity, not a Luxury (May 1, 2016)

Recently a long time patient came in for his regularly scheduled therapeutic massage (every 4 weeks). At the end of the session he told me he was going to change his appointments from every four weeks to every eight. I asked if this was because he was feeling so much better that he felt he could go longer between visits without a reoccurrence of pain. He said “Oh no, as a matter of fact, I’m really worried that the pain is going to become unbearable again, but my wife feels like my monthly massage therapy is a luxury we just can’t afford, and I feel really guilty about spending the money.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. How can there be such a misconception about massage therapy? It was his wife who scheduled his first appointment, because she felt so badly for him living in constant pain! The good news is that after a year of regular therapy, his pain level has gone from a 10 to a 2 or 3 on a “bad” day. A year is enough time for his wife to have forgotten what life was like before. She sees him as “cured”, and feels like the $150/month he spends on massage can be better utilized. I know his wife: she is a kind, caring person who would never deny treatment of a broken bone, or a cut that required stitches. But, because massage is perceived as a province for the wealthy, and because she can’t “see” the painful area(s), she thinks he’s coming for a nice spa day while she hasn’t had a pedicure since last summer!

A lot of research has gone into integrative and alternative medical treatments. We no longer want to take a pill and not think about the long term implications. I am always amazed when I hear the latest commercial for a drug therapy and they “speed-rap” at the end something like “may cause cancer, liver failure, depression, blindness and even death.” We are living longer, and want to enjoy a better quality of life. Research shows that integrative therapies can help us achieve these goals. I gave a copy of this latest post to the patient to share with his wife. I believe education is the key to helping family and friends understand that massage therapy is not a luxury expense, but rather a necessity to help us achieve and maintain a better quality of life.

Feel free to copy and distribute as necessary.

Why "LMT" is Important

When looking for a massage therapist, make sure they are a Licensed Massage Therapist (or "LMT"). This means that they:

  • have graduated from an accredited massage therapy program, which along with massage technique includes study of anatomy (muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nervous system), physiology, kinesiology, medical ethics & privacy, and hygiene. Most programs take two years to complete.
  • are licensed by the State Medical Board. Most states require a minimum of 2,000 hours of training before you can take the state licensing exam.
    In Ohio, our license must be prominently displayed , and may be searched at the Ohio License website

This is the minimum required to practice, but as with other professions, additional training and certifications are valuable. Look for:

  • continuing education leading to certification in specialties such as myofascial release, pre- and post-natal, neuromuscular, oncology and sports massage.
  • membership in the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the national professional association for practicing therapists and educators. You can look for an AMTA certified therapist in your area on the AMTA website,

Unfortunately, there are unlicensed (and unqualified) "therapists" out there. For example, Ohio allows cosmetologists (hair stylists) to offer relaxation massage after attending a one day seminar (!). This creates a confusing and even dangerous situation.

"Carol" is a nurse anesthetist with chronic headaches who came to see me recently after a bad experience with another "therapist". She told the therapist that she thought her headaches originated in her neck. During the massage, her carotid artery was occluded (blocked) and she started to feel faint. Fortunately, she realized what was happening and ended the massage. Later, she checked the Ohio web site and found that the therapist was not an LMT.

Massage therapy is SO much more than a nice back rub (that’s what significant others are for!). Make sure that your therapist is a Licensed Massage Therapist so that you can safely receive all of the wonderful benefits of massage therapy.