Are Massage Therapists Medical Professionals?

Classroom with a massage therapist training students

Medicine is a team sport. Talented caregivers from doctors to dietitians collaborate to achieve the best outcomes for their patients. Anyone with something to contribute is welcomed, no one sits on the bench. Massage therapists are one of many allied health professionals making a difference. You may be asking are massage therapists medical professionals?

What Is an Allied Healthcare Worker?

Healthcare has evolved. Doctors still lead the charge, but if many hands make light work, many minds ensure patients get the best care possible. Physicians are no longer expected to do it all.

Up to 60 percent of healthcare workers in the United States are classified as allied health professionals, according to the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions. Some are also clinical professionals while others are experts in a unique field. Allied health workers include:

  • Physical, occupational and speech therapists
  • Paramedics
  • Nutritionists
  • Audiologists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Nurse midwives
  • Billing specialists
  • Medical coders
  • Office managers
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Pharmacists
  • Phlebotomists
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Chaplains
  • Psychologists
  • Behavioral counselors
  • EKG and ultrasound technicians
  • Medical assistants
  • Radiologists
  • Healthcare administrators
  • Massage therapists

Is a Massage Therapist a Medical Professional?

As part of the allied healthcare field, massage therapists are medical professionals. While some offer bodywork strictly for relaxation, others work with doctors independently or in medical facilities directly to improve patient health.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do?

The body has 700 muscles that work in tandem to keep us in motion, it’s a delicate balance that’s prone to injury. Massage therapists work with clients to alleviate pain, heal injuries and reduce tension by manipulating soft tissue. Bodywork is proven to improve both physical and mental well-being. It’s a millennia-old practice. Types of massage include:

  • Swedish
  • Shiatsu
  • Trigger point
  • Deep tissue
  • Hot stone
  • Aromatherapy
  • Sports
  • Reflexology
  • Thai
  • Neuromuscular
  • Prenatal

Each offers unique health benefits that enhance conventional medical treatment, such as:

  • Less stress
  • Improved peripheral circulation
  • A stronger immune system
  • Pain relief
  • Flexibility
  • Better mobility
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Deeper sleep
  • A brighter mood

Research suggests that massage helps patients better manage chronic conditions like depression, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

How is What Massage Therapists Do Similar to What Other Medical Professionals Do?

What differentiates professionals from paraprofessionals in the healthcare field is their knowledge and ability to independently assess what patients need. Massage therapists don’t diagnose disease or dispense medical advice, but they troubleshoot how muscles respond to illness and determine how massage can help. Like other healthcare professionals, massage therapists:

Practice Autonomously

Massage therapists govern their own practice and make their own treatment decisions. When working with doctors and physical therapists, they collaborate but make their own treatment decisions.

Create Plans of Care

Massage therapists evaluate their clients and create customized treatment plans to meet their needs. Like doctors, they listen to patients and consider a wide range of factors including conditions for which patients may have been referred. The goal is to approach each patient holistically, as an individual, to provide the best quality care.

Explain Treatment Options

Many aspects of a patient’s life are touched by illness or injury. A persistent sprain is not only painful, but it also impacts mobility and mood and makes simple tasks more difficult. There are usually options for treatment depending on the patient’s preferences. Like doctors, massage therapists review options but let the patients make the decisions.

Do No Harm

As independent professionals, massage therapists are obliged to do no harm. If an exam reveals contraindications to massage or practitioners believe bodywork won’t be beneficial, they put the brakes on treatment.

Collaborate with Other Medical Professionals

No medical professional is an island. Patients benefit most when they have a team of experts contributing to their care. Of the massage therapists who work in medical offices, most collaborate with a broad range of healthcare providers to optimize interventions.

Which Medical Professionals Do Massage Therapists Work with Most?

Clients are free to seek massages without a referral from a doctor, yet mainstream medicine is increasingly embracing bodywork as a drug-free alternative treatment for many disorders. Massage therapists routinely work with:

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists help people adapt to changes in their physical condition, teaching them new or better ways to perform activities of daily living after an illness or injury. The goal is for patients to develop safe self-care skills and live independently.

Some of an occupational therapist’s patients have suffered accidents or have chronic medical conditions that lead to musculoskeletal dysfunction. Massage therapists work to relieve muscle aches and reduce inflammation, so patients are more responsive to exercise.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help the ill or injured improve their mobility and manage pain through conditioning and flexibility. Massage therapists contribute by relaxing stiff muscles, improving circulation and enhancing flexibility. Together, physical therapy and massage can often restore lost range of motion.

General Practitioners

Most health complaints may be stress related. When diagnostics have ruled out serious medical conditions, many general practitioners prescribe massage to relieve tension. Pain-related disorders are often the result of tight muscles. Massage improves circulation and speeds healing to affected areas.

Orthopedists

When we’re injured, we find ways to adapt. Someone with an ankle sprain, for example, may limp or hobble, putting unexpected pressure on the unaffected ankle until both are sore and limit mobility. By the time an injured person seeks care, the pain has often become complex and challenging to treat.

Massage therapy can not only control edema and reduce pain in injured joints, but it can ease discomfort in compensatory muscles, so patients are prepared to get the most out of their physical or occupational therapy. Keeping opposing muscle groups limber and the musculature strong reduces pain.

Surgeons

Post-surgical discomfort delays healing. Physical therapy and analgesics help, but lingering aches and medication side effects can set back recovery. As a complementary therapy, massage reduces post-operative stiffness, bolsters participation in activities of daily living and gets patients back on their feet faster.

Pain Specialists

Analgesics are controversial therapies for pain. They’re effective, but adverse effects, including the potential for chemical dependency, can be significant. Opioid medications, once the gold standard for relieving chronic pain, are responsible addictions nationwide and are now rarely prescribed. Over-the-counter options are an alternative, but they come with risks from gastrointestinal irritation to heart attacks.

Analgesics can be part of a safe pain management plan, but as awareness of their unwanted effects grows, specialists are turning to non-pharmacological interventions, including massage. Among chronic pain patients who take analgesics daily, the majority report that regular massage reduces the number of doses they need and boosts results.

Why Become a Massage Therapist?

Careers in healthcare are attractive, but being a nurse or doctor isn’t for everyone. If you prefer a less conventional, more holistic approach to wellness, massage therapy is a satisfying field. Massage therapists practice autonomously, enjoying professional freedom with few limitations. Respected by the medical community, career opportunities continue to grow.

How to Become a Massage Therapist

All it takes to become a massage therapist is a passion for wellness. Most therapists don’t have a college degree. Instead, they have a vocational school diploma or certificate.

Soft skills are also helpful. Massage therapists work with the public daily, so being a people person is a plus. As a medical professional, empathy, compassion, and good communication skills are critical.

The job isn’t grueling, but it can be physically demanding, most of the day is spent standing or walking. Upper body strength and manual dexterity are required to massage stiff muscles. The ability to twist and bend around obstacles, such as beds or medical equipment, is essential for massage therapists working in healthcare settings.

Why Attend a Diploma Program?

Vocational school massage therapy programs give you the knowledge and skills you need in under a year, attending full-time. You are prepared to take the MBLEx licensing exam offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board (FSMTB).

Graduates qualify for membership in professional organizations that promote the massage industry and offer continuing education opportunities. The two largest are the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP).

Final Thoughts

Massage is embraced globally as both a mainstream and alternative treatment. As medical professionals in their own right, massage therapists offer valuable and research-proven services that bring better health to people suffering from stress and chronic pain. Millions of Americans enjoy massages every year, and many more could benefit from bodywork if services were more readily accessible services. Now is the time to get involved.

Massage Therapy Program

If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 13 months. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their patients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

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