Even though an LMT's scope of practice excludes diagnostic and prescriptive authority, and massage therapy has not been scientifically shown to cure any illness or disease, medical massage therapists are increasingly seen as integral to rehabilitative medicine.
Massage therapists spend between 30 and 90 minutes at a time in direct patient contact. Like other physical medicine specialists, they understand gross anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. They make sensory observations: visual, palpatory, proprioceptive and thermoceptive. They are able to perform standard orthopedic and range of motion tests, including gait and posture analysis.
Experienced medical massage therapists engage in pattern recognition problem solving. They continuously study both health science and massage skills, combining intellect and intuition to deliver integrative patient care.
Medical massage therapists create treatment plans, defining limitations and setting functional goals. Oftentimes care is coordinated within a dynamic team of physical medicine specialists, where the massage therapist focuses on delivering manual therapy.
Medical massage therapists are trained to establish and maintain professional boundaries with colleagues and patients alike. Engaging in compassionate listening, they can provide a safe space for patients to talk about their worries, stresses and fears free from moralistic judgement and pseudo-psychoanalysis.
As patients continue to report to their physicians that massage therapy improves quality of life and speeds recovery time for a number of complaints, the need for this specialty continues to grow.