Massage Therapy in Health Care

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As the nation continues to reform health care from a delivery and regulatory standpoint, a distinct trend toward the integration of complementary and integrative medicine therapies with conventional medicine is taking place.

Complementary and integrative medicine therapies are increasingly:

  • Offered by hospitals and medical centers
  • Covered by medical insurance
  • Recommended by physicians
  • Asked for by patients

As a result, advances in medical research related to the use of massage therapy in medical settings, as well as patient and provider interest in health promotion, have spurred a greater need for medical massage therapists trained and proficient in working in this ever-changing health care environment.

Differences between a medical massage therapist and a massage therapist

Medical massage therapy is a specialty in the field of massage therapy. It is a powerful rehabilitative technique used to treat the areas of a patient's body affected by illness, injury or pain. A patient's specific muscles, pain syndromes and trigger points are addressed in medical massage therapy.

Working hand in hand with physicians, a medical massage therapist is an integral part of the health care team, incorporating advanced massage techniques structured to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the patient.

Career outlook

The demand for massage therapists continues to rise as the use of integrative medicine advances.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Employment opportunities are projected to grow 22 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average growth for other occupations.
  • The median annual wage for massage therapists was $38,040, or about $18.29 an hour, as of May 2015.

National certification process

Many health care facilities require board certification to apply for and achieve higher level positions. In the United States, 44 states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapists. In addition, cities, counties or other municipalities may regulate massage certification.

Training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state and locality, with the majority of states requiring a minimum of 500 hours of training from an accredited training program.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) certifies practitioners who pass a national examination and fulfill other requirements.

To achieve NCBTMB board certification, you must:

Learn more about NCBTMB's national board certification requirements.

Mayo Clinic massage therapy training course

Mayo Clinic's Hospital-Based Massage Therapy Course in Rochester, Minnesota, offers a unique opportunity for professional massage therapists to both learn new skills focusing on hospitalized and critically ill patients and advance their career into a hospital massage therapist role.

In this course, students work with patients and hospital staff using interactive learning modules in the classroom culminating in a state-of-the-art simulation center experience prior to internship. This is one of the few hands-on experiences in the hospital course that provides a foundation of knowledge to pursue hospital-based massage therapy.

Settings for massage therapists in health care

Massage therapists work in an acute-care environment as part of a health care team. Physician leaders direct massage therapists to assist in the treatment and wellness of patients from all areas of the medical and surgical arena.

The working environment is dynamic and challenging. It may include patients who are in severe pain, critically ill or dying. The typical setting may be unpredictable with treatment team interruptions and medical massages performed on patients in hospital beds where noise and lighting are not easily controlled.

Resources and professional organizations

April 04, 2018