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How Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy Providers are Related

The field of physical therapy and massage therapy are closely related in a number of ways, but equally, have different purposes and in many states, distinct licensure requirements.

Because of this, individuals interested in these fields should consider the similarities and differences of PTAs and massage therapy providers.

What PTAs and Massage Therapists Do

physical therapy assistant training in alaskaPTAs and massage therapists both work with the human body, making use of various exercises in order to help relieve suffering and improve the healing process.

However, PTAs focus on the entire body, while massage therapists specialize in manipulating the body’s soft tissue and musculature in order to relieve suffering due to a variety of causes.

PTA Duties

A PTA focuses on providing physical therapy to a patient under the direction of a physical therapist, physician or other supervising medical professional. PTAs are forbidden from providing a diagnosis of a patient’s condition, and must always work under the supervision of a qualified supervisor.

Many PTAs work with individuals who are recovering from a traumatic injury, surgical procedure or are currently afflicted with a variety of degenerative conditions.

Because of this, the goal of the physical therapy is to help the individual recover the ability to live a normal life. In some cases, a PTA may also assist an injured individual to learn how to effectively use mobility enhancement devices and artificial limbs.

In general, a PTA will carry out the following duties with their patients:

  • Assist the patient in carrying out any physical therapy in a safe and effective way.
  • Provide detailed reports regarding the patient’s progress to the supervising medical professionals, and assist them in determining if the patient’s physical therapy needs to be adjusted.
  • Train the patient and the patient’s caregivers in how to safely use physical therapy equipment.

PTAs work in a variety of surroundings, with most PTAs working in ambulatory care clinics, providing physical therapy to individuals being treated on an outpatient basis. In addition, many PTAs work in eldercare faculties and public and private hospitals.

Massage Therapists

Massage therapists manipulate the body’s soft tissue and musculature in order to relieve discomfort and improve the patient’s over all feeling of wellness. In addition, massage therapists work with their patients in order to help them adopt posture and work habits that will minimize their discomfort in the future.

Massage therapy techniques vary widely, depending on the condition and needs of the patient. This is especially true as an individual’s soft tissue mass and condition can dramatically change depending on his or her age, physical condition, and lifestyle.

Massage therapists do not provide primary care to individuals suffering from a traumatic injury and many massage therapists focus more on assisting their patients to overcome long-term discomfort or muscle pain caused by work or other activity.

In some cases, the massage therapist may help a patient with discomfort causes by the effects of a traumatic injury, but unlike PTAs, they do not usually directly address these injuries.

Unlike PTAs, massage therapists are primarily self-employed, with about 60 percent owning their own practices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In many cases, they do not work under the supervision of another medical professional but rather plan out their own program of massage therapy.

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Licensure Requirements for Massage Therapists and PTAs

Both massage therapists and PTAs have a variety of educational and licensure requirements. PTAs must be licensed in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Massage therapists must be licensed in most states, although there are some areas that do not currently require licensure.

PTAs must complete the following steps in order to be licensed:

  • Finish an accredited PTA program, usually taking at least two years for a full-time student.
  • Successfully pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
  • Complete any other state licensure requirements, such as a criminal background check or state jurisprudence exam.

Massage therapists generally have the following licensure requirements in those states where licensure or certification is required:

  • Complete an education program that has no less than 500 hours of instruction.
  • Successfully take and pass either the Massage and Body Work Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB). In addition, some states may have developed their own examination that the candidate must pass.
  • Complete other requirements, such as a state criminal background check.

Although these fields are similar, they have distinct licensure requirements and becoming a massage therapist will not allow an individual to practice as a PTA.

Additionally, massage therapists who move to a state that does require licensure may have to complete additional courses and exam work to obtain a license in the state.

Employment Options

Both PTAs and massage therapists are currently enjoying excellent employment options. The rising number of elderly Americans and an increasing emphasis on active sports has resulted in a need for qualified PTAs and massage therapists alike.

There are currently over 153,000 massage therapists in the United States, according to the BLS. Furthermore, this number is expected to increase by at least 20 percent until 2020. The average median salary for a massage therapist is nearly $35,000, with the top 10 percent earning over $69,000.

There are currently over 67,000 PTAs working in the United States. However, PTAs are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of available jobs, and the number of jobs is expected to increase by at least 46 percent up 2020. Furthermore, licensed PTAs currently earn a median salary of nearly $50,000. The highest 10 percent earn nearly $70,000.

Ultimately, both PTAs and massage therapists can enjoy a well-compensated, growing and highly respected career. Because of this, individuals interested in these fields should carefully consider what career they would find most personally rewarding. In addition, the question of whether or not massage therapists are licensed in the individual’s state should be considered, as that would drastically impact the process of becoming a massage therapist.

No matter the choice, massage therapists or PTAs are part of a growing component of America’s healthcare sector. This will make them an integral part of ensuring that the American people receive the healthcare they need in order to continue to live healthy and rewarding lives.

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