What You May Not Know About Massage at a Chiropractic Clinic

I just got back from spending the morning in Salem at a board meeting of the Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners. I typically don’t attend these meetings since I am not a board member. But these are public meetings and today I had something to say.

Recently the board doubled the training requirements for Chiropractic Assistants to receive initial certification in the state. Until Jan 2011 the training requirement was 6 hours with very vague subject matter of which the only required topics were heat/ice and electrotherapy. Seeking to improve the quality and consistency of training the board increased this requirement to 12 hours (8 hours didactic and 4 hours hands-on). Today one of their agenda items was to determine specifically what should be taught in the training classes.

To give you some background, the state of Oregon is one of nine states that even requires that a Chiropractic Assistant (CA) be certified. Once this certification is received the CA may assist the doctor of chiropractic in a number of tasks and even patient procedures. One common procedure is massage therapy as a preparatory therapy for the muscles before an adjustment is given by the chiropractor. I opened my remarks to the board this morning by cupping my hands and asking if anybody knew what was in them. These are intelligent people and they could see my hands were empty but they understood I was trying to make a point. My point was this: it represented everything that according to the board a CA needs to know about massage therapy to safely practice it in a clinical setting.

We live in one of the more demanding states when it comes to being licensed as a Massage Therapist. It requires over 500 hours of training and coursework in anatomy, physiology, pathology, statutes, draping, technique, boundaries, etc. After that there is a written test which must be passed before taking a live practical examination. The cost is over $10,000 to students and the program takes at least one year to complete. OR…you could take a six hour class and do just about everything a Licensed Massage Therapist could do if you worked with a chiropractor as a CA.

See the problem? Fortunately the board does too. In the coming months they will more than likely take action to correct this loophole. It was never to board’s intention for it to exist. They will do it because they exist to protect the public. While massage is generally safe there are situations where it can endanger a patient’s health to receive certain massage techniques. Beyond that I don’t think it’s wise to put an untrained individual in a situation where they will be providing bodywork to a patient in various stages of undress. This puts the patient, the CA and the chiropractor at risk.

So change is coming. That’s a good thing. In the meantime you should feel free to ask about the qualifications of anybody providing massage in these settings. Ask if they have had formal massage training or if they are also a Licensed Massage Therapist. There is nothing wrong with insisting that anybody who works on you has been properly trained. For right now certification as a CA is not enough assurance that somebody has received proper (or any) training in massage techniques and safety. However, a CA who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist has the training and expertise necessary to offer a safe and effective treatment.

At Body of Health all of our CAs who participate in patient care are also Licensed Massage Therapists. We observe a high standard of quality when it comes to providing any type of care and you can rest assured that you are being treat by somebody qualified.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Nicole

    Thank you for this post. This is a loophole that has needed some exposure for a long time. As a chiropractor, it saddens me to see colleagues that won’t refer their patients to a LMT but will instead hire a CA to do the soft tissue work for them and in turn make a profit.

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