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  • What will massage therapy be like in 100 years?

    Given the fact that most healthcare is evidence-based will massage therapy be considered a healthcare profession in 100 years when more and more healthcare insurances are not covering massage therapy services? It would be wise to take a serious look at these concerns for the future of massage therapy. Even though the population is growing in the United States, massage therapy still seems to be considered more as a spa luxury than healthcare necessity for the general population and this presents a cog in the wheel for future growth in the massage industry as part of the integrative healthcare system.

    When the economy is strong, there is no doubt that massage therapists enjoy the ability to make a livable wage but as we near another slump in 2014 how will massage therapists be able to maintain their standard of living? Most surveys point out that most massage therapists are not satisfied with their present income or income potential. The government agencies have immense weight in guiding the public to look for evidence-based therapy practices and where will that leave massage therapists?

    Most healthcare professions are now requiring degree-level education for advancement. Most universities have dropped their massage therapy programs either because of the conflict that massage therapy hours not being accredited in the degree program, or have lost their government funding because massage therapy is not a full time hourly profession and therefore does not qualify in job placement statistics.


    Would the public pay for higher insurance premiums in order to cover massage therapy services? What has massage associations done to lobby congress to make sure massage therapy has a place in the healthcare arena? Massage therapy has lost its privilege to bill as a third party using workman's compensation insurance in the state of Florida. Are other states to follow this landmark move?

    What about the struggling massage therapy associations where memberships are lower each year because massage therapists do not see the advantage to pay above and beyond for their state massage license which is the legal requirement in order to work in a state that licenses massage therapy. The Florida State massage therapy association had a weak voice, if non-existent in overturning the landmark insurance decision to decline massage therapists the ability to bill third party insurance.

    The point of switching massage therapy from the Department of Professional Regulation to the Department of Health seemed to have hurt the massage profession more than advance the careers of massage therapists. Most surveys conclude that the majority of massage therapists work in a spa/franchise setting and not in an integrative healthcare environment. Only a small percentage of massage therapists with advanced training work as part of an integrative healthcare environment and those massage therapists are seasoned professionals with years of advanced training. Would massage therapists be better off if the massage therapy was regulated as a professional trade and skill like cosmetologists?

    Why isn't massage therapy training broken up into categories according to the various massage specialties, i.e., reflexology, acupressure, lymphatic drainage massage and the host of other massage specialties? The Department of Professional Regulation has broken educational requirements into segments for cosmetologists, nail tech, braiding, etc. If someone wants to work as a nail tech by law then that is all the schooling that is required. Why does someone who wants to become a reflexologist have to go to massage school when reflexology only deals with the hands and feet? Why is Reiki required to obtain a state massage therapy license when Reiki practitioners do not perform massage therapy? Why isn't cosmetology considered a healthcare profession when cosmetologist require more education and are permitted to diagnose skin conditions?

    Perhaps it is this myopic thinking that has harmed the massage profession instead of advancing the potential for the future of massage therapy. Massage therapy is losing ground under the evidence-based healthcare system but this system is the way of the future and why massage therapists have lost the ability to bill worker's compensation because the evidence is just not there.

    As automobile insurance companies try to rein in expenses one of their main concerns is to stop paying out money for services that cannot prove they are beneficial in the evidence-based model as a medical healthcare option. This brings us back to why most massage therapists work in a spa/franchise setting which is not considered a healthcare setting.

    The spa industry has strong lobbying power and because of this power the Spa industry has influenced in the past what services are considered massage therapy, such as, winning the body wrap controversy years ago. Where at one time only massage therapists were permitted to perform body wraps, the spa industry influence convinced law makers that body wraps could be safely performed by a spa attendant and massage therapists lost that arena of income. Also because massage therapists tend to be the highest paid staff in the aesthetics/spa environment, then we can expect the spa industry to continue to determine the salaries earned by massage therapists who seem to get lower every year.

    If the massage therapy industry and those organizations representing massage therapists do not take the steps needed to be included in the primary health system, then massage therapy will be forever reliant on clients to pay out-of pocket.  This works fine in strong economic times, but can be significantly affected in economic down-turns which seem now to come too often and last far longer.

    One of the key roles of a professional association is to build relationships with other health care professions. This is essential to holding a position for the profession in cultivating alliances and maintaining leverage in negotiation with government bodies and the insurance industry. Without a properly functioning association representing their members, massage therapists would be required to act as sole proprietors in whom most are because most spas do not pay salaries which in turn mean that a massage therapist is entirely responsible for their own public relations and advocacy.

    The massage franchises are quite content and their businesses only improves as massage therapy continues along this path. There is no reason to lobby insurance companies and healthcare insurance companies until their bottom line is affected by economic stress and perhaps that is what it will take. Credit cards are to massage franchises as the ability to bill insurance for the individual massage therapist.

    Then technology advancement has also diminished income potential for massage therapists with long lasting ointments, temporary wearable hot packs and mechanical shiatsu robotic devices. Technology will only advance more and perhaps setting the stage to how massage therapy will find success in the future and that is to claim that we are still human and need this ancient old touch therapy to provide professional, safe human touch.

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