Massage therapy regulation varies by state and sometimes city.
What kind of government regulation is there?
Some states or cities require that massage therapists be licensed. In those areas, it is illegal to practice massage therapy without a license, and generally, massage therapists must demonstrate a degree of competency or level of education and agree to certain practice guidelines. If individuals don't adhere to these guidelines, they may have their license revoked.
Some cities or states have other forms of regulations, such as state certification or registration, which are less restrictive than licensing, but are still administered and monitored by the government.
Other cities or states have no government regulation on the practice of massage.
Please note that in all states, regardless of the level of government regulation, you need to make sure you find a provider with whom you are comfortable and who you feel actually helps you.
What other consumer protections are there?
Certification is another way to ensure that the massage therapist has met a degree of competency, only this time, the group measuring the competency is a professional association instead of the government.
The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers a certification to massage therapists who have at least 500 hours of training and have passed a written exam.
Certification is a voluntary process. Massage therapists can practice without it, but many choose to pursue certification as a way of letting potential clients know they have met this standard.
One final form of consumer protection occurs at the educational level. Massage schools can seek accreditation through a number of accrediting bodies recognized by the Department of Education. In the accreditation process, the school is evaluated against a set of standards. It is a good idea to work with a massage therapist who graduated from an accredited school.