Massage Therapy Defined

Best Practices Forum

Clarifying Definitions for the Massage Therapy Profession: the Results of the Best Practices Symposium

Massage is a patterned and purposeful soft-tissue manipulation accomplished by use of digits, hands, forearms, elbows, knees and/or feet, with or without the use of emollients, liniments, heat and cold, hand-held tools or other external apparatus, for the intent of therapeutic change.

Massage therapy consists of the application of massage and non-hands-on components, including health promotion and education messages, for self-care and health maintenance; therapy, as well as outcomes, can be influenced by: therapeutic relationships and communication; the therapist’s education, skill level, and experience; and the therapeutic setting.

Massage Therapy Practice

Process for massage therapy practice and essential assessment

Ann Blair Kennedy, LMT, BCTMB, DrPH , Jerrilyn A. Cambron, LMT, DC, MPH, PhD , Patricia A. Sharpe, PhD, MPH, LMBT , Ravensara S. Travillian, PhD, NA-C, LMP, Ruth P. Saunders, PhD

Open Access Published:February 01, 2016DOI: Metrics

Massage therapy practice is a client-centered framework for providing massage therapy through a process of assessment and evaluation, plan of care, treatment, reassessment and reevaluation, health messages, document, and closure in an effort to improve health and/or well-being. Massage therapy practice is influenced by scope of practice and professional standards and ethics.

Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge

Section 120 Massage Therapy Definition and Scope of Practice Statement
Massage therapy is a healthcare and wellness profession involving manipulation of soft tissue. The practice of massage therapy includes assessment, treatment planning and treatment through the manipulation of soft tissue, circulatory fluids and energy fields [121], affecting and benefiting all of the body systems, for therapeutic purposes including, but not limited to, enhancing health and wellbeing, providing emotional and
physical relaxation, reducing stress, improving posture, facilitating circulation of blood, lymph and interstitial fluids, balancing energy, remediating, relieving pain, repairing and preventing injury and rehabilitating. Massage therapy treatment includes a hands-on
component, as well as providing information, education and non-strenuous activities for the purposes of self care and health maintenance. The hands-on component of massage therapy is accomplished by use of digits, hands, forearms, elbows, knees and feet with or without the use of emollients, liniments, heat and cold, hand-held tools or other external apparatus. It is performed in a variety of employment and practice settings.

Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals (ABMP)

Massage & Massage Therapy

Massage, or massage therapy, is a system of structured palpation or movement of the soft tissue of the body. The massage system may include, but is not limited to, such techniques as:

  • Stroking
  • Kneading
  • Gliding
  • Percussion
  • Friction
  • Vibration
  • Compression
  • Passive or active stretching within the normal anatomical range of movement
  • Effleurage (either firm or light soothing, stroking movement, without dragging the skin, using either padded parts of fingertips or palms)
  • Petrissage (lifting or picking up muscles and rolling the folds of skin)
  • Tapotement (striking with the side of the hand, usually with partly flexed fingers, rhythmic movements with fingers or short rapid movements of sides of the hand)

These techniques may be applied with or without the aid of lubricants, salt or herbal preparations, hydromassage, thermal massage or a massage device that mimics or enhances the actions possible by human hands. The purpose of the practice of massage is to enhance the general health and well-being of the recipient.

Massage does not include the diagnosis of a specific pathology, the prescription of drugs or controlled substances, spinal manipulation or those acts of physical therapy that are outside the scope of massage therapy.