A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: massage therapy

27 July 2009
You can find thousands of massage therapists with initials from certifications following LMT. In licensing states, the ONLY initials that can follow the name of the therapist is LMT (licensed massage therapist).

I am a massage therapist who follows the code of ethics, even while in Germany, on a temporary trial period, with the army. in my ten years of practicing i have spoken with so many people that are confused about what all the initials mean. in my opinion, if a practicing massage therapist's name is followed by any initials other than LMT (in a licensed state) they should have to pay a hefty fine, and/or have their license temporally or even permanently suspended.

Florida has a law that prevents a licensed massage therapist (LMT) from practicing outside the scope of their knowledge, because so many were exaggerating their capabilities and education.

As a therapist, I encourage clients to research the therapist's education, whether it is a license or certification.


reply: Angela relates a story about a therapist who was sued and lost his license for massaging a client's breasts. Angela writes: "breast tissue, even on a man, is not to be massaged unless the pecks needed neuromuscular massage therapy, and then the client must traction the breast tissue out of the way with their own hands."

A dentist in the town next to mine was found guilty of 11 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery for massaging the breasts of patients suffering from temporomandibular disorder.*


21 Jul 2000 
I found much of your site pleasing (and amusing), but I am disheartened by your description of massage therapy. Your current write-up on massage therapy is misleading, since the definition at is center is faulty.

I am a student of massage therapy at the Center for Massage and Natural Health in Asheville, NC. We will graduate with a certification in massage therapy; we will be eligible to take the NCBTMB when we complete the course. And about half of the class members are nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists who are learning so that they may physically help, not psychically heal, their patients.

reply: Your curriculum indicates that you are being trained to do both physical and metaphysical healing.

Our studies center around anatomy, physiology, and Swedish massage. The emphasis is on the physical and scientific. Other modalities, including "mystical" modalities like energy work, are included in the curriculum, but they are not by any means the foundation of what we learn--or the foundation of massage therapy as a whole.

reply: Whether they are the foundation or not, they are part of the curriculum, along with 182 hours in anatomy, physiology, pathology and kinesiology. Your curriculum includes Swedish massage, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, Reflexology, Relaxation Skills, Energy Work, Aromatherapy, Herbology,  as well as an introduction to Eastern Philosophy, Chinese Medicine and Shiatsu (Chinese Acupressure).

Your blanket statement that massage therapy is "a massage which includes a metaphysical explanation usually couched in terms of "balancing' some sort of 'energy'" is blatantly inaccurate. Massage therapy is massage for a purpose--usually for wellness, recovery from injury, or relaxation. 

reply: Your course of study tells a different story. Note that I don't claim that metaphysics is all you study, but it is part of the curriculum whether you choose to ignore it or not.

Your later statement that "Despite the emphasis on balancing energy, none of the practice questions provided by the NCBTMB involve metaphysics" is true--the board exams don't involve metaphysics because massage therapy isn't based on metaphysics.

reply: I don't say that massage therapy is based on metaphysics, only that the two are treated as inseparable in massage therapy.

Most books, journals, and articles on massage--at least those that I have read--center on the physical, the real, and, yes, sometimes the medically unproven. Specific articles on specific modalities like Reiki and Therapeutic Touch focus on the mystical, but they are not the core foundation of massage therapy.

I understand your efforts to educate the public on scams, quackery, and myths. But your basic definition of massage therapy is inaccurate. I agree with your statements that many massage therapy claims are unproven, and I have no problem with arguments built around that fact. It appears that you base your definitions on minimal contact with a few therapists, who are probably therapists who focus on the more metaphysical modalities. Just as cynics warn others to be careful who they choose as a source of information, you should be careful when selecting sources for your pages.
Tracy Wilson

reply: I agree that there is difference between massage therapy which is grounded in physiology and other physical sciences and experience, and therapy which is grounded in hocus-pocus metaphysical gibberish. In any case, it seems to me that you should be happy that I link your profession with Eastern philosophy, since the public seems to be seeking more and more for some philosophy and magic to take along with their traditional medicine.

25 May 1999
First, may I say I enjoy your site very much, although I have read only a portion of it so far.

Both my parents were medical doctors, and I was raised with an unusually high level of suspicion for alternative so-called medicines, but I was surprised to see Massage Therapy listed among the spookier alternative therapies. I understood better when I read the entry, which limited massage therapy by definition to massages which included metaphysical explanations.

Perhaps this is a national difference (I live in British Columbia, Canada) but massage therapy here is promoted as a primarily physical therapy for loosening muscles tightened by injury or overuse, for circulatory problems, that sort of thing - often as an adjunct to active therapies, such as stretching exercises. All of that seems sensible enough to me, and consistent with what I understand to be the mechanisms of circulation and muscle contraction.

It does seem to be the case that massage therapists often support some of the "unblocking" and "balancing" theories, but I am inclined to put those in the category of private beliefs and sympathies, and in some cases, of communicating with their clients by way of metaphor.

At any rate, my suggestion would be that massage therapy which does not depend on or incorporate metaphysical theory be differentiated in your entry. The metaphysical theories, as far as I'm concerned, deserve all the scepticism you can apply.

By the way, since I think baseline biases are relevant in these things, I should mention that I am not a health care professional. Actually I am a lawyer whose practice includes a fair bit of personal injury defense, and I run across a lot of renegade therapies that people want insurance companies to fund (ever heard of Feldenkrais? thermography?) I am immensely grateful that relatively few of the ones you mention have found their way north of the border!

Thanks again for your provocative and endlessly interesting website.
Margaret Hollis

11 Sep 1996
Your definition of Ortho-Bionomy is not even close. It has almost nothing to do with contacting trigger points (we prefer to use the word "indicator points").

reply: I agree, "indicator points" is much preferable to "trigger points." It's much more precise and scientific and not as likely to be confused with Roy Rogers.

It has to do with facilitating self-correcting reflexes though positioning, facilitated movement, isometrics, and other methods.
Richard Valasek, Advanced Instructor, Honoululu

reply: Well, I am glad someone is facilitating those self-correcting reflexes or else they might stop self-correcting and begin rebelling or opening their own ortho-bionomy clinics. I will notify Karen Khamashta, our local massage therapist who is spreading these vicious lies about your field, that she is wrong, wrong, wrong. And I will print your letter so the world will know that ortho-bionomy has to do with positioning, facilitated movement and isometrics, not contacting trigger points.

8 Dec 1996
I am a registered massage therapist in Texas. I do a combination of Swedish massage (mainly for relaxation) and Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT - for pain relief). I agree with you (surprise!). Touch and soft tissue manipulation are soothing, relaxing, pleasurable, stress relieving, pain relieving, etc. It is physical, not magical .I think it does the massage profession a disservice when some practitioners go overboard on what I call voodoo. It scares away many average folks who could benefit from the positive effects of massage.

Of course, I do have some clients who espouse their own New Age beliefs, and I do not try to dissuade them. My main concern in the area of New Age massage are techniques designed to evoke an emotional response which is supposed to be healing. This type of therapy may be useful with a highly trained psychotherapist in attendance to handle disturbing images that surface, but I personally know no massage therapists who have any training in this regard. My massage training focused on anatomy, physiology, and massage technique and I think we should stick with what we know. After all, massage is already a wonderful thing. Relax & enjoy!

Philippa Dodson

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