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Massage Today
May, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 05

Survey of Florida Massage Therapists Provides Snapshot of Profession

By Tina Beychok, Associate Editor

As part of an effort to get a better handle on the current practices of licensed massage therapists in the state of Florida, the Florida Board of Massage Therapy within the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Florida State Massage Therapy Association, recently released a survey of 6,592 LMTs throughout the state.

This is the first time that a government agency, rather than a professional association, has conducted such a survey.

Lauren Buzzelli, medical quality assurance (MQA) communications liaison for the Florida Department of Health, explained why the organization decided to conduct this survey. "One of the main areas of focus for the Board of Massage Therapy for the past several years has been to assist the department with the problem of unlicensed activity related to massage therapy. The Board has worked to provide information to licensees and consumers."

Respondents were asked various questions about various aspects of their professional lives. Categories were broken down into: demographics, work settings, employment, income, ailments treated, massage modalities and work injuries.

Demographics. The average Florida LMT has been in practice for less than five years and is likely to be a Caucasian woman between the ages of 45 and 54. The central Gulf Coast, in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota region, has the most practicing LMTs in the state (23 percent). The Tallahassee/Pensacola region, along the panhandle, has the fewest LMTs (6 percent).

Work settings. For those who only work in one setting, the largest percentage works doing out-calls (18 percent), while only 1 percent of LMTs work exclusively in a gym/fitness center setting. For those who work in a variety of settings, 36 percent spend at least half their time doing out-calls, while approximately the same percentage never do out-calls. For those in multiple work settings, 90 percent do not work at all in a gym or fitness center.

Employment. Half of all the respondents stated they are self-employed for the majority of their massage work. By comparison, only 7 percent reported owning their own establishment.

In a typical work week, most LMTs work 20 hours or less, about evenly split between those who work one to 10 hours and those who work 11 to 20 hours per week. Forty-two percent see anywhere from one to three clients during an average week.

Income/insurance. Forty-three percent earn $51 to $70 per hour; 21 percent earn between $30 and $50; and 16 percent earn between $71 and $90 hourly. In terms of annual income, more than 80 percent of LMTs earn less than $40,000 per year and half earn less than $20,000 per year. Only 10 percent earn at least $40,000 - $60,000 per year. As expected, most LMTs (61 percent) do not bill via insurance. Less than 15 percent bill via insurance for at least half of their clients.

Conditions seen. LMTs spend the majority of their time performing massage for pain relief. Nineteen percent spend up to three-quarters of their time performing massage to alleviate pain, mostly for shoulder, neck or back pain. By comparison, 14 percent of therapists spend up to three-quarters of their time performing massage for stress reduction. At the other end of the spectrum, only 4 percent spend that amount of time performing massage for something other than pain, stress or sports injury.

Massage modalities. Overall, deep-tissue massage is the most common modality, performed by 38 percent of therapists. Swedish massage is the second most common modality, at 28 percent. Lynda Solien-Wolfe, vice-chair of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, noted, "I think the most surprising finding from my point of view were that Florida therapists used deep-tissue massage techniques more than Swedish massage, but that deep tissue, Swedish and NMT [neuromuscular therapy] were the top three did not surprise me."

Work injuries. Half of all survey respondents reported some type of injury related to performing massage therapy. The most frequently reported injuries were back spasm (17 percent) and wrist injury (16 percent). Interestingly, three-quarters of therapists who reported sustaining some sort of work-related injury also reported they did not take any time off from work.

When asked how she believes the data from this report will be beneficial, Buzzelli said, "The focus for the Board is the benefit for the consumer. We believe that consumers will benefit by the Board's greater knowledge on how to provide more focused information to educate massage therapists, and even consumers, based on the survey answers we received. This survey has provided the Board of Massage Therapy and the Department of Health with much-needed information to help us in focusing our educational messages to massage therapists and consumers about regulation in Florida."


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