CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

South Dakota Passes Massage Therapy Licensing Law

On February 25th, 2005 governor Bill Rounds of South Dakota signed a new law that will regulate the state's massage therapy profession.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), South Dakota is now the 34th state to regulate massage therapy (for the AMTA list of all states with massage therapy regulation, refer to: http://www.amtamassage.org/about/lawstate.html).

For those who seek increased legitimacy and credibility through increased regulation, this new law is a step forward for massage therapists and complementary and alternative medical practitioners in general. In general, state regulatory boards establish educational and licensure requirements such as requiring the passing of a specific exam and minimum number of training hours. Furthermore, state regulation establishes specific standards for massage therapy practice such as continuing education hours and reciprocity requirements.

State regulation is important for the credibility of massage professionals because it restricts the number of people who are allowed to practice. In general, increased regulation of complementary and alternative medical modalities not only serves to validate the therapies, but also ensures increased quality of the service provided by establishing stricter educational requirements. But note: there is also a "dark side" to licensure and credentialing in the form of increased bureaucratic control and potential co-opting of CAM providers by mainstream health care.

Buit for most, the passing of South Dakota's state law is a victory for the massage therapy profession, and also a reminder that there is a long way to go. The first state to regulate massage therapy was Arkansas, which passed its law in 1951. Fifty-four years later, there are still 16 states with no specific regulation despite the steadily increasing interest in CAM and the development of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which classifies massage as a manipulative and body-based CAM therapy, along with chiropractic and osteopathic medicine. In many states, massage is still regulated by individual town ordinances. This is partly due to the historical legal and political efforts to distinguish massage therapy as a health care profession from shadier activities towns had to regulate by ordinance.

Post by: Laura Stevens

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