Certification in Medical Massage Therapy

Certification in Medical Massage Therapy

What is medical massage therapy?

In simple terms, medical massage is a non-invasive therapy intended to improve or correct a diagnosed medical condition. This therapy is often prescribed by a doctor and is said to reduce pain, increase blood supply to skeletal muscles, and stimulate the nervous system.

Medical Massage vs. Traditional Massage Therapy

Unlike traditional massage therapy, the goal of a medical massage is not relaxation or tension release; rather, a medical massage seeks to stimulate and boost the immune, nervous, and circulatory systems through non-invasive therapy.

For example, a doctor may send a patient for a medical massage to help stimulate their nervous system when battling depression. A doctor may also order a medical massage in the case of a patient suffering from chronic headaches. In each scenario, there is a very specific ailment that the medical massage is seeking to address.

Training Requirements for Medical Massage Therapy

To work in a hospital setting or receive referrals from a doctor, a person must become a certified medical massage therapist. This is achieved by completing continuing education courses or by enrolling in a medical massage program. A total of 300-500 hours of training are typically required to complete the certification program.

This training is typically focused on general massage, with a sub-specialty in specific techniques for the part of the body the medical massage therapist wishes to focus on. These techniques include muscle testing, neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, positional release, trigger point therapy, lymphatic drainage massage, and rehabilitative stretching procedures.

Many medical massage therapists specialize in more than one, allowing them a larger client base and more referrals.

Conditions and Ailments Addressed by Medical Massage

Conditions addressed by medical massage include, (but are not limited to) arthritis, tendonitis and other inflammatory conditions, anxiety disorders, asthma, bronchitis and chronic breathing disorders, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, circulation problems, digestive disorders, herniated discs, fibromyalgia, headaches and migraines, insomnia, myofascial pain, neck pain, pregnancy discomfort, strain injuries, sciatica, sinusitis, stress, tennis elbow and whiplash.

Many people are also finding that medical massage can address medical issues that are difficult to diagnose or otherwise non-treatable by traditional medications.

Controversies in the Area of Medical Massage

Some professional massage therapists have expressed concern over the amount of training required to become a certified medical massage therapist. To them, medical massage is an extension of medical science and requires a very thorough understanding of the anatomy and internal functions before a person can start “treating” medical conditions.

For example, one such argument questions whether a student of medical massage would recognize a client’s symptoms of severe leg pain, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rate as a potential blood clot. As a medical professional, would they suggest immediate emergency room treatment, or would they attempt to “release” the area and cause the clot to travel further into the lungs?

Similarly, would a massage therapist be able to distinguish complaints of left side weakness from a patient having a min-stroke? Essentially, critics claim that more than 500 hours should be required to thoroughly understand the human body and some of the medical concerns listed above.

Insurance Billing and Medical Massage

In most cases, a doctor’s prescription or referral for medical massage is required to show “medical necessity” when billing for insurance coverage. However, some claims may still be paid by insurance companies without a referral, including treatment for car accident victims and other personal injuries. Yet these claims are often determined on a case-by-case basis and depend on the insurance company involved.

Considerations for Prospective Medical Massage Students

Anyone can practice medical massage therapy, provided they obtain the necessary training hours and ultimate certification in the field. Courses in medical massage are a wise choice for students who want to earn some of the higher salaries in the industry.

While traditional massage therapists earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per year, a certified medical massage therapist can make $50,000 to $60,000 per year working in conjunction with a doctor or hospital. This pay difference is generally why traditional massage therapists go back to school for medical massage.

However, before choosing a medical massage school, students should research their state’s insurance billing requirements, as the ability to submit claims for medical massage will vary from state to state.

Similarly, a student of medical massage will want to choose a program that gives them the most in-depth knowledge of the human body and experience with conditions that go beyond soft tissue complaints. This helps to ensure a student will be qualified to work with doctors and hospitals upon graduation.