Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Your Massage Therapist Nationally Certified?

Do you know whether your massage therapist is nationally certified? There are still many states that do not require certification and/or licensing. In fact, Michigan has only recently passed a law to require massage therapists be licensed--though our state has not yet enacted the process for handing out those licenses. That being said, in order to be licensed, one must first be nationally certified by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic and Massage Bodywork (NCBTMB). This means a person has gone through a qualified massage therapy school and completed at least 500 hours or more of education or proven that s/he has worked a certain number of years in massage therapy.

Because licensing and certification are not yet required (or enacted) by all states, there are many places where massage therapy is offered by people who are actually unqualified. Why is that so important? Well, because passing the NCBTMB test maintains the highest degree of validity, integrity, and reliability. Being nationally certified means you represent the highest of standards in the massage therapy profession, distinguishing you above the rest. It means that those who are certified have the adequate and proper knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathology as well as therapeutic massage modalities. Someone with this level of knowledge is likely to know exactly why something is bothering you and when it is or isn't safe to massage.

Think of it this way: would you go into a doctor's office to be treated for a serious illness if s/he didn't have a medical degree? Of course you wouldn't! So going to a massage therapist who isn't nationally certified would be like rolling the dice at the craps table. You might get lucky, you might not. Would you really want to risk having someone who doesn't know what they're doing to work on you?

Consider this possible scenario: a client walks in to receive a massage. He is a soccer player who was injured during a game after another player kicked him in the lower left leg two weeks ago. He complains that his right calf has been painful and swollen ever since then and thinks a massage will make him feel better. A massage therapist who has been to massage therapy school and has learned about the pathologies that would contraindicate massage (that is, someone who knows when it's not safe to massage due to injury or disease) would refuse to massage this client. Why? Because the client is displaying possible signs of having a deep vein thrombosis--clotting in the leg. If the therapist were to massage this client, it's possible to dislodge the clot which could travel through the blood stream into the brain and possibly cause a stroke. And as scary as that sounds, this type of situation can and does happen.

If you're not sure whether your massage therapist is nationally certified, ask them! If you're in Ann Arbor, MI and need a massage therapist, look no further--I am NCTMB-certified. For more information about my qualifications and to contact me, please visit my website at

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