Registered massage therapists play key role in B.C.'s health-care universe
Updated: Jul 10, 2021
Executive director of the Registered Massage Therapists' Association of B.C., Brenda Locke, wants to clear up some misconceptions about the profession that she represents. Firstly, RMTs are part of a provincially regulated profession. Secondly, B.C.-licensed RMTs are among the best-trained in the world.
Locke said “People make the assumption that it’s this ‘spa world’ that we deal with. In fact, less than eight percent of our members work in spas. We don’t advocate for spas. We are about health care. Some RMTs go and do home visits, and that’s necessary—especially with severe musculoskeletal challenges when people can’t get up. But for the most part, they’re working in clinical environments, probably more than 90 percent.”
In recent years, a great deal of research on the efficacy of massage therapy has been published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, exploring such topics as whether massage therapy can alleviate stress among night-shift workers or reduce musculoskeletal pain. Such research helps to address the expectations of insurers, including ICBC, that want to see evidence of the value of treatments.
Sometimes the public will visit unlicensed bodyworkers rather than RMTs only to later discover that their insurer won’t cover the cost of their treatments. This can occur when a physician instructs someone who’s been in a motor-vehicle accident to undergo massage therapy. But the individual is unaware of the difference between an RMT and an unlicensed practitioner, let alone that an insurer will only pay for an RMT’s massage therapy.
To become an RMT must graduate from a recognized massage-therapy program and pass a licensing exam administered by the College of Massage Therapists of B.C., and must undergo a criminal-record check. None of these requirements apply to unlicensed practitioners.
As RMTs we provide front-line assessment, bodyworkers are not trained in this. Voula Soursos, an RMT, stated “We follow a treatment protocol, depending on what condition you come in with,” she said. “There are contraindications to massage therapy, and we go through an assessment process.”
Research has demonstrated that massage therapy can, in some cases, be as effective as surgery in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. And this is one reason why she believes that there’s a role for RMTs in long-term–care homes. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester [Minnesota] has massage therapists on staff,” Locke stated “We have a lot of massage therapists in B.C., and they’re all busy. So it’s not like we’re looking for more avenues, but we know that we could do a very good job in hospitals.”