resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Sit or Stand? Analyzing a Mixed Message
I'm more than a bit confused. At my age, that seems to be a rather common occurrence. However, today more than ever, I'm getting a mixed message.
Increasing the Value of Spine Care: CMS Approves New Low Back Pain Registry
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved the Spine IQ Low Back Pain Registry as a qualified clinical data registry for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) in 2016.
Introducing the Acupuncture Today Digital Edition
In response to the changing habits of our readers, Acupuncture Today will introduce a digital edition of the publication (in addition to our print edition) beginning with the August 2016 issue.
Believe it or not, an estimated one-third of your patients have eaten some form of fast food within 24 hours of their appointment with you.
Acupuncture's Impact on the World
For several years, I have been hearing about the town of Rothenburg, Germany. It seemed just a dot on a map until I arrived. It is the home of the TCM Kongress which began in 1968. It has been held annually for 47 years and it has only missed one year.
What's New in Phytonutrition: Mangifera Indica, "The King of Fruits"
One hundred percent pure Indian green mango fruit (mangifera indica), harvested at a special degree of ripeness for efficacy and taste, can now be concentrated as a phytonutrient nutraceutical powder.
An MD Who Understands the Opioid Epidemic
Doctors of chiropractic have an important role to play in ending the opioid epidemic and dealing with chronic pain by conservative means (see our top story in this issue) – but who's to blame for opioid dependence and abuse in the first place?
Tai Chi Documentary Premier
First Run Features recently announced the world theatrical premiere of Barry Strugatz's documentary The Professor: Tai Chi's Journey West, which premiered last month at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles.
Adventures with the San Jiao
Those of us who have been in practice for several decades relish the way meridians and points reveal new diagnostic clues and new insights. I love to encourage my students to see this as an adventure that goes way beyond the textbooks.
What You Say Isn't Always What Patients Hear
A few years ago, my aunt Edna (name changed for the purpose of this story) suffered a stroke. After a short hospital stay, she was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation. When she arrived at the nursing home, Edna requested a private room.
Acupuncture Muscle Trigger Point and Oriental Medicine Sports Therapy
It is difficult to ascertain the internal condition of professional basketball player Lebron James during game one of the 2014 NBA finals, in which he developed debilitating muscle cramps that led to his premature removal from the game.
AOM Hospital-Based Practice: A Future Reality?
The natural evolution of health care on the planet is integrative health. We may have some challenges ahead, but based on my research, all indicators are pointing in a positive direction. There seems to be an evolving consciousness among our patient population that is "getting it."
Multivitamin Supplement May Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence
There is a great deal of controversy regarding the value of multiple vitamin supplements in cancer prevention.
Beating the Odds: Interview With Para-Powerlifter Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta
Since October 2015, the FICS Foundation, the charitable organization affiliated with the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS), has been supporting disabled athletes internationally.
How to Stay Sane During the Elections: Understanding Through the Lens of Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine philosophy, everything consists of Yin and Yang. The law of polar opposites – one cannot exist without its opposite.
Three Tips to Help You Analyze the Acupuncture Case Studies of the NCCAOM Exam
Confirm the answer quickly by the elimination method. Case study:
After two treatments for back pain, a patient presents for a third
session complaining of rapid breathing and wheezing that is made worse
during cold weather.
The Pertinent Negative
We all have to perform evaluations on patients. Most of us don't like doing it – exams take time, and worse it takes even more time after the evaluation to put together a narrative summary of the findings. Sometimes, this process becomes downright tedious.
Treating Hip & Groin Pain With Abdominal Release of Upper Lumbar Nerve Impingements
Have you encountered patients with groin and hip pain you can't seem to solve? You know it's not a worn-out hip; you suspect the pain is somehow connected to the spine. But somehow, you just can't help them break through.
Chronic Pain: Become Part of the Solution
I have lectured to more than 7,000 chiropractic physicians over the past five years regarding the chronic pain and opioid epidemic in this country.
Kansas Achieves Licensing Law
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed House Bill 2615 into law on Friday, May 13, 2016. HB2615 includes provisions for the licensure of acupuncturists in the state of Kansas.
An Emerging Partnership Model
Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) has educated integrative health and wellness practitioners for the last 40 years, originally as an acupuncture clinic and school. The institution's transformative, relationship-centered programs integrate traditional wisdom with contemporary science
Insuring Quality Control in Herb Importation: An Interview with Wilson Lau
Wilson Lau is the vice president of Nuherbs, a Chinese herb importation company based in San Leandro, California. Before joining Nuherbs, he trained as a lawyer specializing in FDA law.
A Long-Overdue Win for Oregon Medicaid Patients - and the Implications for Other States
Beginning July 1, 2016, Oregon Medicaid patients with spinal pain (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, pelvic) who are determined to be low risk based on a biopsychosocial assessment tool (STarT Back – Keele University) can receive four chiropractic visits per episode.
October, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 10
Understanding the Difference Between Clinical and Spa Massage
By Christy Schumacher, NCTMB
As most of us in the massage profession recognize of late, we are splitting into two fairly divergent, yet equally important industries. The most prominent and popular industry is the personal services massage industry.Many refer to this as "spa" or "relaxation" massage (for the purposes of this article I will refer to this as spa massage). The second and more recently emerging industry is "clinical" (or medical) massage therapy. These and other terms get thrown around a lot, and can cause a tremendous amount of confusion for massage therapists, but more importantly, for consumers. I hear many massage therapists and consumers denigrate spa massage as lesser than clinical massage, and each time it makes me cringe; all professional massage has therapeutic value! However, I also hear an equal number of therapists misrepresent clinical massage. I would like to provide clear and reasonable distinctions to these two types of massage, and hopefully help move both industries forward in a productive way.
It is important to understand that the type of modality that is practiced, from Swedish to Myofacial Release, from Cranio Sacral to Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or from Trigger Point Therapy to Lymphatic Drainage, in no way puts a massage therapist in one category versus another. A spa massage therapist and a clinical massage therapist can, and do, practice all types of modalities in both industries. The ultimate difference is the focus. In spa massage, the therapist is ultimately focused on the satisfaction of the client. The session is often intuitive and compassionate. The environment is private and often includes luxuries that put the client at ease. essions are defined and charged by a set number of minutes the hands are on the body, and tipping is expected. Attention to details such as music, table warmers, aromatherapy and high-end linens is common, and often required to stand out to consumers to get them to return.
In clinical massage, the ultimate focus is on functional outcomes. There is an evidence-based reason why a therapist applies one modality over another and most importantly, results must be measurable. Client satisfaction is often not assessed until the completion of a limited number of treatments, referred to as "treat and release," or the achievement of a specific therapeutic outcome. Finally, the length of the session is often shorter and the number of minutes that are spent with the hands on the body is not a focus point for the session (no more clock watchers!). Prices are defined more often by third party payers (insurance companies), in 15-20 minute increments, and tipping is rarely involved.
Training is another important difference between clinical and spa massage. Basic massage education (often around 500 hours) rarely provides the education required to practice in a clinical setting as a new graduate, but is sufficient for many spa settings. This allows for a new therapist to begin practicing, build their skill set, and most importantly, make money! A new therapist can get a spa massage job and gain the necessary experience and continuing education to tailor their future career to what works best for them. A typical massage graduate requires a period of professional practice and substantial continuing education to be qualified to practice in a clinical setting. Knowledge must be gained that includes assessment and proper documentation of functional pain, lifestyle and ranges of motion. Advanced understanding of pathology and kinesiology also is important.
Credentialing is another important distinction. To practice spa massage, a therapist often is required to be licensed and carry liability insurance. In many clinical settings, additional credentialing is often required such as National Certification, additional professional certificates, continuing education hours and sometimes even professional licenses such as nursing or physical therapy may be helpful to bill insurance (in the interest of full disclosure, I have been a Director for National Certification for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork since 2009).
Most importantly, various details of ethics must be observed and practiced with care. This includes knowing not just your scope of practice as a massage therapist, but also the scopes of practice of your fellow allied health professionals. Clinical massage is often practiced in team-based settings that include colleagues such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, acupuncturists, psychologists and orthopedic physicians. Referrals are important. Knowing when to refer your client out and how to communicate that effectively is an important part of clinical massage. Likewise, communicating to allied health colleagues about their patients, and when your skill set may be a more suitable therapy, takes time and patience to develop.
This is certainly not to say that a spa massage therapist does not require proper ethics training to ensure public trust and safety. Basic massage education will include training on maintaining proper records of informed consent, contraindications and limited SOAP note documentation. However, for spa massage, documentation of time and place of a session is often ethically sufficient. When the focus is on measurable outcomes, documentation is just as important as the session itself.
The Bottom Line
I come in contact with numerous massage students and recent graduates at my integrative health clinic. Almost universally, these students and professionals will tell me that they have no interest in working at a spa and want to practice massage that actually "does something." Spa massage does accomplish something! The ability to provide essential relaxation and stress relief is a powerful therapeutic tool. In fact, stress and tension is often the root of physical pain, and needs to be addressed concurrently with any clinical or spa massage.
As a new massage graduate, it is important to recognize that the differences between spa and clinical massage are quite muddy for consumers. If you want to develop your career as a clinical massage therapist, there are important steps to take. First of all, recognize that the best way to get there is getting your hands on as many bodies as possible to develop your skills. A job at a spa is a great place to do this.
Communicate with your clients about why they are on your table and track lifestyle or stress outcomes. If a client comes in with low back pain, ask them on a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it now? How bad does it get when it’s at its worst? Ask them what number they are at after your session. If they are coming in for overall stress relief, ask them what their stress does to restrict or impede their lifestyle. How is their sleep, anxiety levels and depression levels? Assign a numeric scale to these questions, document your findings and ask these same questions again on a follow-up visit. Upon their return, ask them the same question and remind them of their previous answers. And above all, DOCUMENT.
Those of us who have been in this industry for a long time recognize that a lot of massage therapists want to be a part of clinical health care teams. More and more opportunities are becoming available, but will require dedication and commitment from the next generation of massage therapists if they are to grow in number. Continue your education. Learn what your allied health colleagues can do to further improve your client’s pain, lifestyle and range of motion limitations. And above all, recognize that any massage you provide for your clients, whether it’s at a fancy spa or in a semi-private clinical setting with bright lights, you are providing them with an invaluable tool to improve their lives.
Christy Schumacher is a medical ethicist and massage therapist who works with integrative health care practitioners to improve access to and utilization of professional massage therapy within conventional medicine. She has a strong background in public health, evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based models of care.
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