What Are Medical Massage Therapy Schools? Who Are They For?

Medical massage therapy schools are somewhat of a misnomer as you will find out after reading this article. The massage therapy industry can be separated into medical massages and massages meant for relaxation or general wellness.

However, at this point in the United States medical massage does not require any extra certification or technical training. There is training available that would benefit somebody that wants to specialize in medical massage, but this type of training is not a requirement for a career specific in medical massage.

What Is Medical Massage?

The term medical massage was coined by an American Pete Sparring in 1997. As a field of study it is relatively new. The basis of medical massage is essentially that the massage therapy would benefit certain diagnosis of physiological factors, which essentially means that a medical massage generally attempts to be results oriented.

Medical massage itself is a scientific study of the patient through medical necessity borne out of different types of injuries, chronic pain, or other physical maladies. Medical massage looks for a functional outcome usually with maximum medical improvement in the patient.

Traditional massage therapy generally does not attempt to diagnose a physiological problem and thus does not attempt to address or “fix” a specific problem through massage. Traditional massage attempts to relax the patient and provide general wellness.

Currently in the United States medical massage therapy falls under the purview of massage therapy training and is not overseen by specific medical massage therapy schools. There are courses that help massage therapists who want to continue their career specifically in medical massage to further the diagnosis skills and to focus on a specific set of outcomes from various diagnoses.

Medical massage can generally treat the following:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Range of motion issues
  • Back and neck pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Work injuries
  • Auto injuries
  • Edema
  • Constipation
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Repetitive use injuries such as tennis elbow
  • Migraines are headaches
  • Pain associated with bulging or injured spinal discs and many more.

Do Your Patients Need Prescription for a Medical Massage?

The major difference between medical massage and massage therapy for relaxation and wellness is the patient payment structure. Generally when patients receive medical massage for treatment of a current injury or condition they try to recoup the costs through their medical insurer.

In order for insurance to cover medical massage the massage needs to be prescribed by an acting physician in charge of the patient. The patient needs to demonstrate to the insurance company that they are getting medical massages as a treatment plan for injuries or current conditions and that the treatment plan is expected to relieve.

Unfortunately, there is a veritable minefield of issues surrounding medical massage and repayment through insurance companies. Different insurance companies have different requirements in order to reimburse medical massages so patients need to be well educated as to what they require.

Establishments that offer medical massage need to ensure their patient facing staff is well versed with the requirements and is able to communicate them clearly to all patients.

Do You Need a Special Medical Massage Certification?

Medical massage certification is in its infancy within the industry. According to the Medical Massage Practitioners of America (MMPA) a certification specifically in medical massage is not needed to perform medical massage or in many cases to receive reimbursement from insurance companies.

There are certain schools that offer a medical massage certification that market the certification as a requirement for performing medical massage. However, according to the MMPA this is categorically false.

At this point the medical massage certification may be more of a marketing asset and mechanism rather than a requirement to practice. As such, there are virtually no specific medical massage therapy schools, but usually medical massage certifications within massage therapy programs or schools are available.

That said, from a continuing development perspective, the MMPA does offer a medical massage therapy certification program offering three different levels that qualify as continuing education credits (CEU) in most states.

Do You Need Specific Training to Perform Medical Massage?

Although certification is not specifically required to practice medical massage there are different training courses that would aid a medical massage therapist in their career. The primary massage treatment techniques of medical massage primarily focus around clinical massage techniques including myofascial treatments, deep tissue massage, cross fiber friction, neuromuscular trigger point technique, and muscle energy techniques. By going through these types of training and putting them on your resume you will likely have a better chance of getting hired by employer seeking a medical massage therapist.

Other specific training coursework that may aid the career of a medical massage therapist include: orthopedic assessment and treatment protocols, pathologies and contraindications, medical terminology, pharmacology, documentation, and communication skills. These types of training courses generally provide a more in-depth understanding of the specifics of diagnostic treatment therapies.

Medical Massage Therapy Schools

Medical massage specific coursework is generally found in continuing education institutions that specialize in medical massage. In essence you would already need to be a licensed, certified, and practicing massage therapist in order to attend a medical massage therapy school.

These schools provide extra certification in the specialized field of medical massage therapy. Some examples include the MMPA mentioned above, the American Medical Massage Association, the LMT Success Group, and various other similar local schools in your area. All of these educational providers are NCBTMB approved providers.

To summarize, you can elect to take courses in medical massage without having to get a specific certification in it. These courses are offered by a number of national associations for massage therapists as continuing education units required by massage therapists to keep up-to-date on their professional training.

You can also elect to take a specific certification program in medical massage through an organization like the MMPA. The MMPA offer three levels of training totaling 13 days and $1,400 in cost.

Although medical massage therapy schools are bit of a misnomer there are courses and certification programs specifically for medical massage. There are also classes within existing massage therapy programs but you will typically need to discuss taking these with the school of your choice to determine whether the course credits will count toward your graduation from the program.

When considering a career in medical massage it is important to understand that although it is perceived as a specialization within the massage therapy field, it can be pursued through any accredited massage therapy program.


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Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Massage Therapy Schools
6 comments on “What Are Medical Massage Therapy Schools? Who Are They For?
  1. Nash Rich says:

    I’ve just heard of regular massage therapy, so medical massage therapy is new to me. I think it’s cool that massage isn’t just for relaxation and getting knots out. It’s great to see that there is massage therapy that can help with injuries like car accidents.

  2. Mary Ann Ninaus says:

    I’am currently attending a Massage Training Center , i’am taking up Medical Massage Therapy, is Massage training center can be considered as Medical School?

  3. Cindy says:

    I’m a massage therapist for 2 years now. I went to a small massage school that was therapeutic massage and body work. We had a concentration on injuries, medical contraindications and results oriented treatment. I am so glad I chose that school now.

    Is there anything I can put on my business cards that mention medical massage therapist?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Cindy – while there is not an official designation called medical massage therapists, we know and see many title themselves as that to indicate their specialty. just like one would call themselves a deep tissue massage therapist. what are your concerns while displaying such a designation?

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