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Massage therapy can help to decrease pain and muscle aches, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote overall wellness and relaxation.

Massage Certification And Licensing

A professional massage is no ordinary backrub. It's a therapeutic treatment that can relieve emotional and physical stress and treat muscle and joint issues. To find the best massage therapy, make sure your massage therapist is fully licensed.

What licensing involves

Massage licensing must incorporate at least 500 hours of instruction, though some institutions offer up to 1,000 hours. This typically includes:

  • 125 hours of body systems, anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, during which pupils study the physical structure of the body.
  • 200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, during which students learn how to apply massage techniques to the body.
  • 40 hours of pathology, during which practitioners study diseases (both genetic and acquired) and how the body responds to illness. These classes include lessons on disease symptoms, treatments, genetics, diet, and psychology.
  • 10 hours of business and ethics (six hours of the hours are dedicated to ethics alone). Students are taught to adhere to certain codes of ethics and sanitation, as well as how to build client relationships.
  • 125 hours of additional instruction in a specialized area of massages, during which students can narrow their focus to Shiatsu, Swedish, deep tissue massage, sports therapy, or another form of massage. Students can also specialize in more than one type of massage.

Certification by state

The laws on massage certification vary from state to state. Currently, 37 states (plus the District of Columbia, but not including New York, Minnesota, or Vermont) require massage therapists to pass a standardized exam. This test is administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). It is the most widely accepted credential in the field of massage and bodywork.

But it's not the only option for licensing. Other states also accept certificates from independent massage institutes. In New York, for example, massage therapists are required to pass the New York State Massage Therapy Examination, not the NCBTMB exam. Prospective massage specialists must also be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. If you are from outside the United States, you must submit a portfolio showing your massage experience. You must still take either a state or national exam.

Individual state legislatures look for 500 to 1,000 hours of class work and supervised instruction, clinical experience, a background check, U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, CPR training, and having "good moral character" are just some. In Tennessee, massage therapists must submit two letters of recommendation from the massage school with which they studied.

What certification means

Not all therapists receive formal training for all kinds of massage. Certified massage therapists may be trained to use several basic techniques, like Shiatsu, Thai massage, reflexology, Swedish massage, and deep tissue massage. Some massage techniques, such as Rolfing and Watsu, require specific further education or certification.

Massage therapists who plan to offer a specialized type of massage may be required to enroll in a secondary school. These massage therapists are usually already certified in the state where they practice. The secondary institute must be state- or NCBTMB-approved.

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