One of the most frequently asked questions regarding massage therapy is if it's worth the expense? Massage is not just a simple back rub, nor is it just a "luxury" or occasional "treat." Research tells us that massage therapy is a valuable component of a well-rounded healthcare regimen, combating everything from chronic pain to the negative effects of stress.
Not Just a Back Rub
Some people are unaware of the great skill and knowledge that comprises a massage therapy education. I have had friends of mine express great surprise upon learning that I had to take anatomy, physiology, and other science-based classes during the course of my massage therapy education. When I explain my massage school curriculum to them, these friends usually utter variations of "Wow! I had no idea your studies were so involved!"
If you are trying to educate others about massage, have them consider the profession's educational and regulatory requirements.
Ask your massage therapist to tell you about the extent of his or her massage school curriculum and completed courses.
Most states regulate the practice of massage therapy with licenses, certificates, etc. Usually, the completion of a comprehensive examination is also required for state or national certification.
Many states and professional organizations require massage therapists to complete continuing education courses each year. This ensures that therapists learn about emerging modalities and current issues pertinent to the field.
Many massage therapists belong to professional organizations and commit to upholding rigorous standards of practice and codes of ethics.
Through stringent educational standards, state and national regulation, continuing education requirements, and professional affiliations, the massage therapy profession has evolved beyond the "basic back rub" stereotype into a well-respected healthcare modality.
More Than a Luxury
The misconception that massage therapy is just a luxury is also prevalent. Some people believe that massage therapy is either an indulgence for the wealthy or a "treat" for special occasions. Most therapists have some clients who only come in once a year, usually for a birthday or special holiday.
I have also encountered clients who have been influenced by others and made to feel guilty for spending money on a monthly massage session. These clients seem to think of massage therapy as a frivolity they don't deserve. They will say: "I try to explain the benefits I get from massage therapy to my spouse [friend, family member, etc.], but all they can focus on is the money being spent on a 'luxury.'"
Admittedly, massage therapy has a monetary cost, but that should be weighed against the benefits of the treatment--diminished stress, decreased pain, improved moods, etc. There is usually a way to budget for a monthly massage with a bit of reprioritizing.
Insurance Recognition and Employee Benefits
With the healthcare benefits of massage therapy increasingly being touted, many health insurance companies are choosing to include coverage for massage in their plans. Massage therapy is also included as a healthcare option in personal health savings accounts being offered to some employees, while many employers are providing coverage for various alternative health benefits, including massage. With this expanded recognition in the medical realm, massage therapy is definitely shedding its former perception as a luxury and embracing its new role: necessity!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line I share with my clients is you do not need to be in pain or discomfort to benefit from massage therapy. In addition to being effective for pain relief, massage is also beneficial as a stress-reducing and wellness measure. In reality, massage therapy is an integral component of an overall health maintenance plan.
Lee Picciuto, LMT, NCTMB, author of Ethics in Practice: A Handbook for Modern Massage Therapists (DayOne Publishing, 2009)