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Massage Today
October, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 10

Alphabet Soup

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I was recently read an online newsletter with the following statement: "Jared Adair, Director of the Office of HIPAA Standards at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has written 'Alternative Link' to clarify the status of participants in the ABC codes demonstration project.

'His letter essentially says that all contractual trading partners of registrants for the federally authorized demonstration program are eligible to use ABC codes commercially in HIPAA transactions with those registrants,' says Synthia Molina, Alternative Link CEO."*


Jargon, in general, is confusing to those not schooled in "the code." There are so many acronyms and terms we use that were developed to increase understanding and provide specificity of meaning; unfortunately, many do just the opposite. I came up with the following incomplete list that applies to our profession. Many rolled off the tip of my tongue in a heartbeat.

If this were in a quiz, could you define these?


The following are the 'unofficial' definitions, some from the owners' Web sites!

ABC is the Advanced Billing Concepts code set developed by Alternative Link, Inc., for use in alternative and integrative medicine. It's a group of five-character alphabetic codes, with two-character practitioner modifiers (and a topic for a future column!).

ABMP (Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals) is a membership organization serving the massage, bodywork, somatic and esthetic professions.

AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) is a 60-year-old professional association representing the field of massage therapy.

CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine), as defined by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered part of conventional medicine (also referred to as allopathy; Western; mainstream; orthodox; regular and bio medicine). Although some scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, key questions have yet to be answered as to whether CAM practices are safe and whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used.

CEU is Continuing Education Unit. Frequently used synonymously with contact hour, this actually falls under the International Association for Continuing Education and Training's (IACET) continuing education terminology and definition for credit hours. According to the IACET, one CEU is awarded for each 10 contact hours of organized approved continuing education experience.

CMT (Certified Massage Therapist) is a title sometimes awarded and/or allowed by a state, county or municipal regulating entity.

CPT is a billing code system owned by the American Medical Association. It stands for Physician's Current Procedural Terminology.

CST stands for CranioSacral Therapy, a gentle, noninvasive method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Developed by Massage Today columnist John E. Upledger, DO, OMM, this therapy enhances the body's natural healing processes and has proven effective in treating a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction.

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (see;;

IMA is the International Massage Association, which provides insurance services for massage, complementary and healing arts, and health and beauty.

LDT (Lymph Drainage Therapy) is an original hands-on method of lymph drainage developed by French physician Bruno Chikly. It offers a highly efficient approach to working with the lymphatic and other fluid systems. While its concepts are based on traditional procedures, LDT is the first modality to teach practitioners how to manually attune the specific rhythm, pressure, quality and direction of the lymph flow by using a combination of precise anatomical science and distinct manual techniques.

LMP (Licensed Massage Practitioner) and LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) are titles sometimes awarded and/or allowed by a state, county or municipal regulating entity.

MFR (Myofascial Release) is a gentle and effective hands-on manual therapy technique that uses sustained pressure into restrictions in the fascial system to eliminate pain, and restore motion and function to the body.

NCBTMB is National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (the organization!); NCETMB is National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (the test!); NCTMB is Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (the credential!).

NMT, (Neuromuscular Therapy or Technique) is a program of soft tissue manipulation and recovery from acute and chronic pain syndromes which uses specific massage therapy, flexibility stretching and home care in an effort to eliminate the causes of neuromuscular pain patterns. It is designed to bring about balance between the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system. NMT enhances the function of joints, muscles and biomechanics (movement), and it releases endorphins, the body's own natural pain killers.

I hope this list has been helpful. I find that we frequently use and misuse these terms, and that misuse can undermine communication greatly!

Thanks for listening!

*CHRF NEWS FILE #52, August 18, 2003; The CHRF News Files is a product of the Collaboration for the Healthcare Renewal Foundation.

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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