resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Streamline Your Front Desk
Your front office can be your greatest source of efficiency or it can be a constant bottleneck. Increasing the productivity of this area, while not sacrificing the quality of patient interaction, can be a little tricky. However, with some focused effort and intention, your front desk can keep your practice running smoothly.
How to Reach Your World With the Chiropractic Message
My latest effort to share chiropractic occurred in mid-May while I was sitting at an introductory parent information night for high schoolers. The IT instructor informed us that each student would be receiving a computer for all their studies.
Distal Style Treatment of Neurogenic Pain
Treat locally or distally? This question has frequented my thoughts for the treatment of pain throughout my acupuncture career. Each style has strengths and weaknesses, thus the versatile practitioner would do well to forgo dogmatic adherence to any one style in deference to the needs of the individual patient.
Sleepless nights, anxiety, mood swings, euphoric energy bursts, obsessive thinking, and a strange feeling in his chest. That is what Matt was experiencing when he first entered my practice. Rather than being concerned, he was loving every minute of it.
With Low-Back Pain, Sometimes Little Things Matter
Typical treatments for low back pain involve large muscles like the quadratus lumborum, iliopsoas, and piriformis. However, there are situations when a very small muscle, the multifidus, can play a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of low back muscular or spinal injury.
A Different Way of Looking at It
The way you and your chiropractic colleagues access information has changed over the past decade. According to a recent survey conducted by Dynamic Chiropractic, almost half (48 percent) of DCs read online articles on their personal computer or laptop daily.
Prostate Cancer Risk
A large study published in January 2016 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that men who are vegans had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to non-vegan men. The study followed more than 26,346 men who are part of the Adventists Health Study-2.
Low Fat vs. Low Carb & the Power of Protein
A science-based website recently posted a nice summary of 23 randomized, controlled trials from peer-reviewed journals pitting low-carb diets against low-fat diets.
Living Well: Lessons From Our Oldest Old
Aging is a significant public health problem, important to chiropractors in practice and important to DCs who teach students training to become chiropractors.
In This Current Age of Anxiety
Anxiety, also referred to angst or hysteria, goes by many names. One, popularized by the sagacious Zhang Zhong Jing, who many practitioners of Chinese Medicine may be familiar with, is known as Restless Zang/Fu disorder.
Understanding Levels of Evidence
The concept of levels of evidence is a cornerstone of research literacy and a great starting point for understanding basic principles of how research works.
Billing Timed Services
Q: I do not always use physical medicine services but in my state I do have a scope of practice that allows me to provide many of these services. I am trying to understand what "direct one-on-one patient contact" means in relation to physical medicine services.
Constructing Our Reality, Part 2
My last article discussed perception and its relationship to the primary channels. Before we get to the channels most commonly used to treat sensory disturbances, the small intestine and triple heater, we should first talk about the bladder channel.
Billing One-on-One, Direct Patient Contact
This is often misunderstood and leads to trepidation when documenting and subsequently billing timed services.
Finger (Pad) Pointing: Repetitive-Use Injury Waiting to Happen
"My wrist and hand hurt. I spend all day working on computers and then I come home and spend more time on a computer, usually playing video games."
Holistic Skin Care and Modern Technology
Anti-aging is a concept that we hear in reference to skin rejuvenation and growing older on a daily basis. Aging begins as soon as we are born; therefore "pro-aging" is embracing all stages of life gracefully, with vitality, wisdom, joy, and gratitude as the goal.
One of the most common trends to see in clinical medical practice and public health is the cycles of health "buzzwords." These come and go depending upon the current cultural zeitgeist. One year, "parasites" are causing all the issues, and the next year it's "candida."
Transforming Las Vegas
On a warm spring day in Las Vegas, Sonia Kim, clinic front desk staff, is busy preparing for a full day of intern shifts at Wongu Health Center. She greets patients, makes sure documents are properly signed, and lets the interns know that their patients have arrived.
A Whole-Body Approach to Chronic Tension Headaches
Nearly every day in our practices, we see patients with chronic headaches that have not responded to traditional treatment. They present in our offices with a feeble hope that "maybe" a chiropractor can help.
News in Brief
NYCC Aggregates Degree Programs in New School; Palmer Chancellor Receives Education Award From ICA; Oklahaven Announces "Have a Heart" Winners.
Building Bridges with Discipline
As practitioners of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, our role is to educate patients and medical practitioners about the various safety aspects of our medicine. Medical doctors that embrace Chinese medicine want to collaborate and include Chinese herbal medicine in more aspects of clinical care to support their patients.
Discovery: Finding Insights and Each Other in Different Disciplines
Recently I've been thinking about all sorts of things which are hidden from our daily direct experience. That general category is what links nearly everything that catches my attention and then demands some kind of investigation.
Hip Flexor Contractures & LBP in Above-the-Knee Amputations
Patients with above-the-knee amputations (AK or AKA) are particularly prone to developing hip flexor contractures. Not to be confused with muscle tightness, contractures are a permanent shortening of tissues which cause deformity or distortion.
Parker University Embraces New Era
Change is in the air at Parker University, which recently announced the selection of both a new president and a new consultant for its seminar program.
Keeping Malpractice Allegations at Bay
It has been suggested that in the litigious environment in which we live, the practice of chiropractic should be defensive and practitioners should constantly be watching their backs. An element of defensive practice is a good idea.
August, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 08
Medical Massage: Facts, Fiction and Frustration
By Rebecca J. Razo
The questions surrounding medical massage have plagued the profession for years, and yet clear-cut answers remain elusive: What exactly is medical massage? Who can practice it? What constitutes a medical massage therapist? The list goes on and on.
Next to regulation and national certification, medical massage could very well be the third most divisive issue in the profession. Although the medical massage controversy has been bubbling below the surface for years, it wasn't until recently that the lid was blown off the proverbial medical massage pot, and what's been simmering below is not pleasant: hostility, frustration, misunderstandings and misinformation have all contributed to the increasing dissent and fragmentation over an issue in desperate need of attention, direction, definition, and, most of all, unification.
First Things First: What Happened in Pennsylvania?
The most recent controversy surrounding medical massage began when the Business League for Massage Therapy and Bodywork (BLMTB), a Montana-based advocacy group, called attention to a Pennsylvania class-action lawsuit that it believed could irreparably harm the practice of massage therapy nationwide.
In Oct. 2004, Pennsylvania massage therapist Tracey Roberts, who is also the state chapter president of the United States Medical Massage Association (USMMA), filed a class-action lawsuit against State Farm Automobile Insurance for denying payment under Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Code 97140 (manual therapy techniques) for massage services rendered. The suit alleges that the plaintiffs "were denied [payment] solely because they were not licensed physical therapists."1 At press time, the case was in the process of being settled in favor of the plaintiffs, and a Declaration and Settlement Agreement had been written in which both sides agreed to the following terms: "It is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm") may not, as a policy, practice, and procedure, deny bills submitted under the CPT Code 97140 solely on the basis that they are being submitted by a medical massage therapist and not by a licensed physical therapist."1 Under the terms of the agreement, "defendant State Farm has agreed to reconsider any denials of CPT Code 97140 for the four (4) years prior to Oct. 13, 2004, which denials occurred solely on the basis that the massage therapist was not a physical therapist."1
The BLMTB called attention to this suit when it discovered that David Luther, founder and president of the USMMA, issued a statement in USMMA's online Spring 2005 newsletter indicating that USMMA filed the lawsuit and that Luther was working with the attorney to define the term "medical massage therapist":
Luther also owns the Medical Massage National Certification Board (MMNCB), which offers the Medical Massage National Certification Examination (MMNCE), and The Medical Massage Office (TMMO), a company offering medical massage training and seminars. (At press time, Luther was in the process of selling TMMO.)
Fearing that Luther was attempting to define and monopolize the term "medical massage therapist," the BLMTB wrote an open letter to warn the massage profession about the potential implications of the lawsuit and David Luther's involvement: "This move to 'legitimize' the [MMNCE] without a) the suitable infrastructure (lacking credentialing of the NCCA/NOCA or like agency and lacking sufficient numbers of credentialed therapists), b) clear conflict of interest...and c) without discussion among the various stakeholders is detrimental to the entire profession."3 Additionally, the BLMTB wrote a letter to Mark Bernstein, the judge presiding over the case, in an attempt to persuade him to change the term "medical massage therapist" to "massage therapist" in the settlement agreement, and to advise him that the profession as a whole has not categorically defined the term medical massage.4
In the days following this initial flurry of activity, the USMMA removed the paragraphs referencing the lawsuit from its site at the request of the plaintiff's attorney, Dan Levin.5,6 And in a telephone interview with Massage Today (MT), Levin disclosed that Luther's online statements slightly mischaracterized the USMMA's role in the suit, including the fact that the USMMA filed the lawsuit; according to Levin, USMMA was never technically listed as a plaintiff. Levin was quick to add that he doesn't believe Luther's statements were made to intentionally mislead the profession, and further noted that Luther was indeed one of several people consulted about the case and had a hand in constructing some of the language contained in the Settlement Agreement.5-6
Levin also emphasized that the case was never about defining terms. "The settlement does not define what a medical massage therapist is," he said. "The purpose of the settlement is [so] that State Farm Insurance will not deny providers who submit a bill because they are massage therapists and not physical therapists." Levin also said that the case does not define what constitutes medical massage therapy, noting that it would "not [be] appropriate...we'd be legislating then, exposing massage therapists to more problems."6
But the BLMTB, unconvinced that the settlement language is without consequence to the massage profession, reaffirmed its position in a second letter to Judge Bernstein:
At press time, the term had not been changed.
The BLMTB further believes that the suit has the potential to cause problems down the road for all massage therapists who want to bill insurance. "The language [could allow] the insurance company to downcode anyone who is not a 'medical massage therapist' and since there is no standard as to who or what one is, the insurance company is well within its rights to downcode because the practitioner can't prove they are a 'medical massage therapist.'"7
And what about David Luther's attempts to define a medical massage therapist as one who has passed the MMNCE, which is administered by the organization he owns? To Luther, the answer is simple. In an interview with MT, Luther spoke candidly about his reasons for wanting to see massage therapists certified as medical massage therapists before they are allowed to bill insurance, and why passing the MMNCE should be a requirement. "Patients deserve to know they are going to a competent massage therapist," he said. "Doctors deserve to know that they are referring to a competent massage therapist; insurance companies should know they're paying for [a] curative cause; and massage therapists deserve the distinction and recognition if they've worked to become medical massage therapists.5
"Look at Whitney Lowe, Erik Dalton, Judith Walker DeLany, James Waslaski, Aaron Mattes, and Paul St. John," he continued, "and tell me [why] it's fair to have the same recognition for all massage therapists, especially those with no schooling, only home study schooling, or just 100 hours of schooling. Many [massage therapists] are wonderful massage therapists, but many of them have no business practicing medical massage or billing insurance."5 In short, Luther believes that patients are acting on the assumption that a massage therapist who can bill medical insurance also understands medical conditions. In his opinion, a true medical massage therapist is one who can "validate a pathology. Unfortunately, massage therapists get so little of that in school."5
And why limit the practice of medical massage to those who have passed the MMNCE? Because, according to Luther, it is currently the only national medical massage exam undergoing the NCCA/NOCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies/National Organization for Competency Assurance) certification process, which would make the MMNCB "the only national certifying entity for medical massage to be nationally credentialed." The exam "tests for knowledge that a massage therapist should [know] before giving an aggressive treatment on a patient" he said.5
When it comes to insurance billing and massage therapy, however, Vivian Madison-Mahoney, Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA) Insurance Committee Chair and a pioneer in the field of massage therapy and insurance reimbursement, vehemently disagrees with David Luther. In Madison-Mahoney's view, all massage therapy services are deserving of insurance reimbursement and could be considered medical massage when prescribed by treating physicians for a medically necessary condition. "Some state laws recognize massage therapy as therapeutic," she says. "If massage is therapeutic, then therapeutic is medically necessary. The doctor prescribes massage therapy services for a specific diagnosis because he/she knows the patient's medical needs. The doctor prescribing massage services understands that massage is medically necessary; therefore, a massage therapist should be reimbursed by insurance for the treatment."8
And Patricia Cadolino, president of the New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists and facilitator of the Nurturing Touch massage program in the neonatal intensive care unit for the last seven years at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York, notes that if massage therapists were required to take the MMNCE in order to practice medical massage therapy, she'd be out of a job. "I think as massage therapists, we need to keep in mind our scope of practice, stick to the universal precautions and contraindications when massaging clients, whether it be in a spa, private practice or hospital setting. Remember, we are not allowed to treat or diagnose clients.9
"I do, however, agree with setting higher standards in education," Cadolino continued. "But I feel that it would hurt our profession to set such a drastic precedent telling insurance companies only to accept claims from medically certified therapists."
How does Madison-Mahoney respond to Luther's assertion that patients expect that massage therapists who can bill medical insurance are also competent to adequately perform massage? "It's like 'let the buyer beware,'" she said. "Not all massage therapists are going to be effective for a specific condition just like not all doctors or physical therapists are going to be effective for that patient, but they can still bill insurance. Insurance companies will not reimburse anyone if the patient does not continue to show signs of improvement. I've had massage therapists straight out of school who have had more repeat clients/patients than some of those who have had more extensive training," she continued. "All massage therapy is therapeutic, and a relaxing massage can be medically beneficial."8
While Vivian does not believe that one must be a "certified medical massage therapist" to perform massage therapy or bill insurance, she does endorse continuing education and advanced training. "I agree that training is important, absolutely. The more training one has, the more the [massage therapist's] subconscious has to work with to provide effective treatment to the patient." She believes simply that "a massage becomes a 'medical massage' when performed via a prescription written by a treating physician for a diagnosed medical condition."8
The Elusive Definition of Medical Massage
For years, a number of well-known massage therapists have utilized the term medical massage therapy in practice and in continuing education seminars. And some therapists, who may or may not call themselves medical massage therapists, are indeed practicing massage in hospitals and medical offices. Yet, there still has not been an industry-wide consensus on what exactly constitutes medical massage therapy.
According to Medical Massage Practitioners of America (MMPA), an organization that offers medical massage educational seminars, medical massage is "result-oriented, and the treatment is specifically directed to resolve conditions that have been diagnosed and prescribed by a physician. The therapist may use a variety of modalities or procedures during the treatment, but will focus that treatment only on the areas of the body related to the diagnosis and prescription." The MMPA further believes that "all forms of massage therapy can be therapeutic when applied by a skillful and knowledgeable therapist; therefore, medical massage is not limited to any particular specific technique."10
According to the American Medical Massage Association (AMMA), "medical massage should be defined by the application of science and research to manual medicine, and not by popular opinion, or franchised methods of massage."11 Included in the AMMA's definition of medical massage for its members are several key points, including that "medical massage is a system of patient care and treatment that is based on the medical model," and "the medical massage therapist will treat specific connective tissue problems with techniques and protocols directed at achieving a measurable clinical response in the patient, and in achieving patient care objectives."12
Still, despite these definitions, the American Massage Therapy Association recently issued a press release titled, "Profession Has Yet to Define Medical Massage Says AMTA," in which it stated the following position:
"The American Massage Therapy Association Board of Directors is writing to state boards regulating massage therapy advising them that the massage therapy profession has not yet agreed upon a definition of the term 'medical massage'...AMTA is currently gathering information from stakeholders both within and outside the massage therapy profession to inform the process of defining what could be called 'medical massage.' AMTA believes that it is premature, at this time, for any action to be taken regarding 'medical massage' until the profession has an inclusive discussion, leading to agreement on definitions and place in the spectrum of massage education and practice."13
And a recent letter from AMTA's general counsel to the plaintiff's attorney Dan Levin issued the following statement affirming the AMTA's position: "No state legislation has defined the term 'medical massage therapist,'...neither has the massage therapy profession agreed upon a definition of the term 'medical massage.' Therefore, it would be premature and improper to use this phrase in a settlement because of the potential restrictions that might result for massage therapists who have not chosen to designate themselves by a term with no accepted meaning."14
Clearly, the profession remains at odds when it comes to defining medical massage therapy. Only time will tell what is in store for the future of medical massage and whether the massage therapy community can come to the table with open minds and in the spirit of unity to determine what is best for the people that really matter: the patients.
Editor's note: Several articles and letters presenting a range of perspectives on medical massage appear in this month's issue.
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