Therapeutic massage is an ancient profession passed down from one generation to the other in ancient times. It involves targeted rubbing and kneading of specific muscles and joints. This is primarily to relieve pain and stress or address a particular body problem.

However, in recent times, passing knowledge is no longer recognized as credibility to practice this profession. A license is now the requirement in order to offer massage therapy to patients irrespective of the part of ancient  Egypt your knowledge must have been derived from.

This is especially true because massage therapy has evolved from being a perk in spas and salons to being a vital part of healthcare due to the various types of conditions massage therapy addresses.

According to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics, massage therapists rake in an average of $44,000 annually. The projected growth rate over the next 9 years is 21% which is 5% higher than the average growth of most occupations.

In this article, we will look at the massage therapy license, the requirements, certifications, the various specialties, and how Formplus can support massage therapists effectively.

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What is a License for a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapists are specialists trained to treat specific injuries and health conditions by applying targeted pressure to the body’s muscles, joints, ligaments, and soft tissues. Their administration results in improved circulation, stress reduction, and soothing sore spots in the body.

Becoming a massage therapist involves formal education, certification, and a license. A license for a massage therapist is a government-issued license permitting professionals who have satisfied the requirements to be a massage therapist, to provide massage therapy services for patients.

It is important to note that a massage therapy license varies across various locations globally.

However, there are some general requirements required to get this license, which include passing an approved exam that tests the knowledge of individuals on  topics like;

  • Massage therapy ethics
  • Anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology
  • Client assessment
  • Massage therapy history

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A massage therapy license varies from a massage business license, which allows for private practice. This is so because not all massage therapists would own a business. Some of them would work for healthcare organizations and the like.

The essence of a license is to regulate the practice and guarantee a standard level of safety and finesse, as the role involves physical contact and proximity to sensitive body parts. 

What are the Licensing Requirements for a Massage Therapist?

As we established earlier, the requirements for a massage therapist vary; however, there are general expectations that need to be fulfilled to practice as a massage therapist.

Below are 5 steps required across the board for a massage therapist.

  1. The first step is to finish a massage therapy program from an accredited facility approved in your state of residence or country. Coursework in these institutions should include medical terms, ethical massage practices, anatomy, and body mechanics.
  2. The second step is to fulfill practical hands-on requirements, a prerequisite to getting a license. This can be done via internship opportunities in hospitals or massage clinics.
  3. The third step entails taking and passing a massage therapy licensing examination administered by massage therapy boards in your state or country.
  4. The fourth step is to apply for a license, provide proof of eligibility, and pay for a license.
  5. The fifth step requires completing a certification, which involves putting in a sizeable number of hours in a massage or healthcare facility that supports massage therapy.

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The certification area varies from palliative care, sports massage, spa management, veterinary massage, and clinical rehabilitation massage. Anyone is ideal; it is just dependent on your area of personal interest. 

What is a Certificate for a Massage Therapist?

A certificate is a credential that attests to the mastery of a skillset. For massage therapists, a certification in this field is an optional and additional testimonial that you specialize in a particular area of massage therapy. Simply put, a certificate in massage therapy depicts a clear commitment to higher standards.

There are medical doctors who are called general practitioners. We also have doctors who specialize in gynecology, pediatrics, and dentistry by going further to garner hands-on experience in these areas of specialization.

Similarly, earning a certificate in massage therapy requires hands-on clinical hours in the area of specialty desired alongside a specific examination to assess your expertise.

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Types of Massage Therapist Certifications and their Requirements 

It is noteworthy that certificates in massage therapy vary in content, cost, and length, depending on the area of interest. Listed below are 7 massage therapy certifications and their requirements.

1. Medical Massage Therapy Certification: features various classes focused on body mechanics. It is designed for newbies in the massage therapy space who want to focus on easing pain from injuries and illnesses through a corrective and restorative approach.


  • Prior formal education related to massage therapy or in massage therapy
  • 600 hours of supervised clinical work
  • Minimum of 2 years of work experience
  • Passing an examination
  • Annual renewal of the certificate

2. Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB): This is a highly regarded voluntary certification in massage therapy for professionals who have completed 750 hours of study and 250 hours of hands-on clinical experience.


  • A current CPR certificate
  • A verifiable massage therapy license issued by the state
  • Abide by the NCBTMB standard and code of ethics
  • Graduation from a board-approved school
  • Pass the board certificate examination
  • Open commitment to opposing human trafficking
  • Renewable every 24 months

3. Master Therapist (MTAPA): This certification involves in-depth training in psychotherapy techniques, a form of mind massage popularly referred to as talk therapy.


  • Minimum of 2 years of college education
  • 36months of hands-on work experience
  • No Written examination
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • One-off certification, no renewal is required

4. Stone Massage Therapist Certification: This certification specializes in hot stone therapy using basalt and marble stones. The focus is on the pros and cons, care, applications, and effect of the varying stone temperature on the human body—using materials and required standards. 

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  • Prior education in natural massage therapy from an accredited school
  • Written Examination
  • One-off certification

5. Sports Massage Certification: This certification analyzes the science behind sports massage and teaches massage therapists the applications of techniques to adopt when working with athletes.


  • College education in massage therapy
  • The license in massage therapy and or NCBTMB certificate
  • Experience in CPR and emergency medical care/sports medicine
  • Written examination in sports therapy

6. Certified Instructor of Infant Massage: This certification is for therapists who want to support parents by providing or teaching infant massage techniques. Topics include the length of the massage, appropriate oils, and baby body signals during the massage. It also consists of a regular full-body massage and skills for preterm, low-birth-weight infants with unique needs. 


  • Nice to have but not required, a college education in massage therapy, natural therapy, health or early childhood care education
  • Attend certification training
  • Complete assignments
  • Have a license in massage therapy
  • Instruct  parents in the art of infant massage over a  required period
  • Write and pass the examination.

7. Massage Therapy Certification (MT): specializes in hands-on training in different massage techniques. It also features essential methods of boosting the health and well-being of patients.


  • Minimum of 36 months of college education
  • Minimum of 36 months of hands-on clinical experience
  • Written Examination
  • One-off certification, no subsequent renewal required.

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Massage Therapist Specialities

1. Chair massage

Founded by David Palmer in 1968, the chair massage is focused on the upper body. It is a highly mobile massage specialty. The equipment used to administer this massage is the functional massage chair, fabricated to provide easy access to the head, shoulders, back, and arms."chair-massage"

A chair massage affords patients privacy, as the procedure is usually done over clothes and does not require massage, lotions, or oils. The duration varies from 10-30minutes maximum, and some specialized techniques are used to administer this massage.

The benefits of a chair massage are;

  • Eliminates tension and stiffness in joints
  • Releases hormones that improve moods and evoke a feeling of well being
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Normalizes  blood pressure
  • Creates fluidity in body movements

2. Cupping therapy

Cupping is a massage therapy to loosen up stiff body tissues using vacuum suction. It has origins in ancient Egypt as early as (1550 B.C), where Eber’s papyrus first mentioned it.

The process involves using a specialized massage cup to apply pressure to the skin and gently latch on to the skin, and raises the skin’s soft tissues into the cup. 

Cupping therapy is comforting and not painful. Slight redness and a feeling of heat are expected after the process due to the increased blood flow stimulated by the process. This, in turn, promotes cell repair and triggers the growth of new connective tissues.

Cupping is believed to cause healing and is mainly used to treat conditions like immobility, joint-related conditions, arthritis, blood disorders, topical skin conditions, anxiety, depression, migraines, and many more.

Benefits of cupping include:

  • Smoothens Scar tissues 
  • Limits the number of painful trigger points
  • Promotes blood circulation and improves lymphatic conditions
  • Treats Pain
  • Improves mobility
  • Remove toxins

3. Trigger point massage

Trigger points are sore touch points usually experienced in the muscles. There are painful to touch, and when any kind of pressure is applied, it evokes sharp pains in the body.

A trigger point massage aims to decompress the tightening caused by these pains. Trigger point massage treats muscle tightening or cramping caused by injury and lack of or too much exercise."triggerpoint-massage"

Trigger point pain can be very intense, and the pain radiates to different parts of the body. The Trigger massage therapy works by gently manipulating the muscle and applying pressure to various positions until it loosens up, eliminating the pain.

Trigger point therapy treats conditions like sciatica, headaches, migraines, sports injuries, and arthritis-related diseases. The beauty of trigger massage therapy is that patients can get relief after one session.

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The benefits of trigger massage are;

  • Aligns body posture
  • Fixes issues of stiffness and immobility
  • Soothes pain
  • Treats migraines and strain in the eyes

4. Shiatsu

It is an ancient form of massage popular amongst the Chinese. It involves using fingers to apply pressure on specific body parts to promote blood circulation and release body tension. Shiatsu is the Japanese name for finger, hence the name “Shiatsu Massage.” The Shiatsu process combines acupressure, stretching, and kneading of joints to improve flexibility and provide fluid motion.

The intensity of a Shiatsu massage would vary for each person, depending on their general condition. Thu, techniques involving thumbs, fingers, elbows, and knees release tension and soothe the patient’s pain points.

During a Shiatsu process, feedback from the client is required for the therapist to know the level of pressure the patient can bear. The process lasts approximately for 60-90minutes, and a feeling of soreness for 16 to 24 hours after the procedure is standard.

Benefits of Shiatsu include:

  • Ease of bowel movements
  • Elimination of anxiety
  • Fluidity in body movement
  • Soothes Pain
  • Relieves Headaches
  • Treats Lower Backpain

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5. Craniosacral therapy

It is a form of alternative therapy that employs gentle touch to apply pressure intermittently to joints connecting the brain to the spine. It is used to treat conditions like headaches, side effects of chemotherapy, relieve tension, and neck pain, to mention a few."cranio-sacral-massage"

The craniosacral massage is one of the gentlest forms of therapy; there is no form of force applied during the process. Fingertips are the only tools required to massage the tissue gently and fluid membranes that connect the brain to the spine, and the amount of pressure needed for optimum results in this process is barely 5grams.

It treats conditions like scoliosis(curvature of the spine), head trauma, fatigue, migraines, and coordination impairments. The amount of time required for this therapy is dependent on the state of the patient’s health.

The benefits of Craniosacral therapy are;

  • Treatment of Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Resolves mental health issues
  • Helps women with complicated  pregnancies
  • Eliminates sleep disorders

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6. Breema

Breema is a form of therapy that uses different touch sensations on the skin and body movements to help the body realign itself and release vital energy flow to all body parts. It is a rare combination of dance-like activities, accompanied by stretching and massage across specific touch points in the body.

The focus is to reach a balance between the mind, soul, and body, which would trigger a heightened awareness of your body and improve overall wellbeing across all touch points.

Breema usually takes place on the floor on padded cushions while the patient is fully clothed, and the therapist then begins a series of tension-relieving stretches.

The  Breema process s controlled by 9 principles;

  • Body comfort: The stretches or pulls are done gently by the therapist in a way that would not cause any pain or discomfort.
  • Firm & Gentle: The breema therapy uses firm but gentle, quick simultaneous pulls to achieve optimal results.
  • Mutual Support: The Breema process involves the therapist and patient support. The therapist provides support, and the patient receives it.
  • Haste & Break Free: Natural rhythms of body movements are adhered to during the process, without any breaks in-between.
  • Force Free: No force or strain is applied during the breema massage.
  • Specific Distinct Body Movements: Each move during a session is unique and has a distinct purpose.
  • Judgement Free Zone: Breema operates a come-as-you-are philosophy without body shaming or judgment. Acceptance is based on availability for the sessions.
  • Active Participation: Patients must be actively involved and cannot just lie there passively during the sessions. P participation includes mental alertness on all levels, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
  • No Strings Attached/No Extras: Breema aims to help clients express themselves and achieve their full potential.

Benefit Include:

  • Renewed Vigor
  • Body Flexibility
  • Increased Awareness
  • Clarity

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7. Polarity therapy

Polarity therapy was developed in 1948 by Dr. Randolph Stone, an Osteopath. Polarity therapy creates equilibrium in body energy levels through touch, exercise, nutrition, and self-awareness.

Like all energy therapy, Polarity is built based on 3 assumptions;

  • Blocked energy breeds illness
  • The mind and body are self-healing
  • Manipulating the body’s internal energy can foster healing for the mind and body.

Polarity therapy believes that negative and positive energy in the body’s magnetic field controls the body’s energy levels.

A typical phototherapy session involves physical touch and hovering over the patient to manipulate energy. However, there is little scientific evidence to back up the effectiveness of Polarity therapy, even when recipients of the process believe that ot works.

Benefits include:

  • Curing Malaise
  • Eliminating anxiety and depression
  • Stress management
  • Treating pain
  • Boosting Energy levels
  • Treating Fatigue

9. Lomi Lomi massage

Lomi Lomi massage has its origin in the islands of Hawaii. Lomi in the Hawaiian language means to rub or touch. So Lomi Lomi massage means rub-rub massage. The process combines massage techniques, oils, dance chants, and prayers. It involves deep, fluid strokes to create a feeling of satisfaction and relaxation."lomi-lomi-massage"

The Lomi Lomi massage was founded on the basis that each cell of the body stores memories, so the fluid strokes are meant to help the body purge itself of the old and make way for the new.

The therapist uses hands, feet, elbows, and knees during the process.

It is essential to know that in recent times, prayers and chants are no longer part of the process. Relaxing music and a calming environment are now being used to create the atmosphere needed for a loving touch, another way the Lomi Lomi massage is called.

The benefits include:

  • Toxin removal
  • Promotes Flexibility
  • Helps with lactose intolerance
  • Weight loss due to increased metabolism
  • Eroding fear and cleansing the mind of negative energy
  • Harmony and balance of the mind, body, and spirit

How Formplus Can Help Massage Therapists

Formplus is the easiest-to-use data collection software. It features many forms that can be shared, accessed, and filled in through a web link or a QR code.

For a massage therapist, Formplus can provide massage consultation form templates that are both mobile and desktop friendly. Most importantly, the forms and surveys can be customized to suit the requirements of various massage therapists.

The Formplus templates are intuitive; for example, the free-to-use appointment form templates has a date and time feature that indicates already filled slots and makes it unavailable for clients to schedule sessions.

With the Formplus  templates, the following can be achieved seamlessly and in real-time; 

  • Book appointments
  • Collect the client’s information, name, and email address
  • Clients can give consent by filling and signing the consent form
  • Medical history
  • Massage Preferences
  • Make Inquiries about the sessions
  • Request for more information

The information gathered from clients can be accessed in real-time and stored securely on the form and in secure storage. Please check here for a look and feel of the massage consultation form.


Massage therapy has evolved from traditional or cultural interventions to a form of health care that is well regulated. There are now licensing criteria that need to be met for the safety of the clients and to ensure a certain level of standard and professionalism in the industry.

  • Formplus Blog
  • on 14 min read


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