March 27, 2012 05:26

Licensed massage therapists see Senate Bill 191 as a power grab by the state's physical therapy lobby.

Licensed massage therapists in Louisiana are sore over a bill by state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, that would abolish the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy and move its oversight function to the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board. LMTs, according to a letter sent to Claitor as well as to LMTs and media outlets statewide by Lafayette massage therapist Regan Coussan, see Claitor's Senate Bill 191 as a power grab by the state's physical therapists - practitioners in an industry, according to Coussan's characterization, that has seen its market share diminished by the rising popularity of massage.

Here's Coussan's letter:

Licensed Massage Therapists, Body Workers, and Friends of Massage, Take Heed:

Dan Claitor, a Republican Junior Senator from the District 16, Baton Rouge LA, has authored a Bill SB 191.  By it, he wishes to abolish the Louisiana State Board of Massage Therapy and put all Massage Therapists under the control of the Physical Therapy Board.

Yes, I know that the trend is to try to "save money" by ridding government of unnecessary supervisory bodies.  However, though Massage Therapists are indeed body workers who, if allowed to do their jobs, can do wonderful things for the body, we are not physical therapists. Our training is similar, in some cases equal, but its application and often its effects are vastly different.  And frankly, if you take a look at the level of insurance we are required to keep, we are doing a great deal more good than harm.

Several years ago, Louisiana physical therapists chose to flex their muscles because massage therapists started cutting into their practice.  We were less expensive, and in many cases, we were getting the job done as well, sometimes better. They made us unable to work with doctors, even as contractors, and unable to use the word "Stretch" as they determined it was "out of our scope of practice."  These were but the tip of the fecalberg from which licensed massage therapists as a community and profession have spent years recovering.

To this day, because of past meddling, this fine profession must too often rely on tips, and call patients "clients." Why? Because companies can get away without paying hourly wage to "contractors" as they do LPNs, but instead only pay while a body is on the table, and an unlucky massage therapist must sit and wait for the next "client," or the happenstance of a walk-in.  Now, the muscles are flexing again, except that if we are put directly under the thumb of the PTs, they shall have precisely what they have always wanted in terms of our profession - carte blanche to decide how far it can and cannot go in this state.

Now, with respect to the Senator, and with very great respect to physical therapists, and to doctors in general, what do they truly know about what we do?  I have met many very good physical and occupational therapists that I both like and enjoyed working with {and on}, and the effects of what we do surprised them.  I know that many of you are unfamiliar with the benefits of massage and the ramifications of what such governmental pigeon-holing would do to massage, but let me sum it up in one question:  When was the last time that a medical professional, of any type, got to know your body for an hour every week, every two weeks, every month, every two months, even every six?

It does not happen, and a good LMT, I can say with no false pride, has palpatory instincts and education in anatomical and kinesologic relationships that can cause a lot of very fine nurses and trainers, some of which I would trust with my life, to shake their heads.  Add to that a veritable plethora of modalities in which we may work, and one may end up quite healthy indeed, or at least quite relaxed.  But even if it is "only" relaxation, the relief of stress is still good medicine.

I have seen LMTs do everything with massage from relieving bronchitis to easing menstrual cramping, from providing range of motion to the limbs of a man or woman for the first time in decades to using a bit of lymphatic drainage to help a nervous bride fit into her wedding dress, and a hell of a lot more than I can list here.  I have done a lot of it myself.  Why?  Because our teachers were good, our continuing ed is as good or better, and we have one hell of a lot of dedicated, intelligent, talented and often undervalued people in this state who can keep doing all of that if they are simply allowed to do their damned jobs without useless bureaucratic red tape and interference.

If the Senator is worried about cutting costs, go elsewhere.  If he is worried about our professionalism and ethics, we have had to fight too bloody hard to get the reputations we have, to spoil them now.  If he is worried about our training and education, then increase it, because the more we know, the better we can help all of you out there be in less pain at less cost.  But none of this will happen if the dominant, fat-cat section of the physical therapist community jams its outlook down our throats for the next fifty years until we can get our own board back, if that ever happens.

This bill is not, I repeat, not what Louisiana needs for massage. I would ask that any of you who may contact Senator Dan Claitor, quickly, and advise him not to push this forward.  This would be a terrible blow to licensed massage therapists, to the families of LMTs, and most importantly to any who get regular massage, because of limitations, over-regulation, insurance-related price-hiking, and other related nastiness. It would very likely put many of us looking squarely into the barrel of finding a new career, at a time when the job market is perilous at best.

Contact him, your favored Senators, Congresspeople and Representatives and tell them that SB 191 is NOT for Louisiana massage.