Massage Therapy in the Medical Field (Part II)

We wrote last week about the difficulty of defining medical massage therapy, as its definition can vary state-by-state or by municipality.

Indeed, the lack of a national or professional definition leaves medical massage therapy’s determination very nebulous. Some may claim they are receiving medical massage therapy, paying their therapist directly for alleviation of stress, depression, pain, etc. But that would leave the definition of medical massage therapy up to the individual. Insurance providers, meanwhile, sometimes offer payment for massage therapy for health and wellness or the treatment of an illness, but sometimes this payment is made to licensed/certified massage therapists, or to therapists with no state-backed credential (click here for a more in-depth opinion on this subject).

Finally, an individual physician may prescribe massage therapy for treatment of a medical condition, but this too may be rejected by an insurance provider as an illegitimate form of medical care. This left the AMTA in a difficult situation where it had to actually put out a press release refusing to offer a definition as to what medical massage therapy is, as it did not want “a definition of medical massage to restrict the practices of massage therapists.”

Instead the AMTA said that empirical evidence would be needed to “refute or support” the concept of medical massage therapy as a distinct form of specialization within the field of massage therapy. While refusing to categorize exactly what medical massage therapy is, the AMTA did say that “clearly medical massage may include, but not be limited to…massage as part of a treatment plan determined by a licensed healthcare professional and/or practice setting.”

I think that is a safe definition for now too. And while we wait for a government-defined, or therapist-defined determination of what medical massage therapy is, there may be a de facto practice of medical massage therapy provided already by hospitals, a topic we will discuss next week.

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