I was asked an interesting question publicly on Social Media the other night. It was a good question and one that others may also ponder.

The question was this:

“Greg, I am curious.
 Is “therapist” a regulated term?  Is it kosher to call yourself a “Sports Massage Therapist”
instead of just “Sports Masseuse””?

 (NOTE:  The persons profile states that they are a “Mood Adjustment “Therapist” … ???)

So, I thought I would post a reply to her to help clear up the reasons why I use the term Soft Tissue Therapist and Sports Massage Therapist.  As mentioned, it was a great question, so it deserved a thorough answer

Hi <person>

The main reason I don’t use Masseuse is that Masseuse is a female and I am not!!!! 😀

Joking aside – The term you are looking for is Masseur – and a masseur is a male who can only deliver a basic massage.

By basic I mean they are only qualified to offer simple holistic/Swedish treatments and even if they have Deep Tissue certificate, by not understanding the body like a Sports Massage Therapist, they are technically still only a Masseuse/Masseur.

The dictionary describes a therapist as

a person skilled in a particular
kind of therapy.

The training between holistic and sports massage, and then soft tissue therapy is huge. What we do, a holistic massage therapist cannot.  We used advanced physical manipulation techniques to help resolve musculoskeletal dysfunction, not just rub you.  That alone is out of the remit of a Masseuse/Masseur. In fact, some of which a Soft Tissue Therapist does, a Sports Massage therapist may not be qualified to do.

So, with that in mind, because of my studies and qualification I have the right to use the term therapist and mainly use Soft Tissue Therapist as my preferred title but also throw in Sports Massage Therapist in there as more people are familiar with that term.

This breakdown might help more:  It was taken from The ISRM website.

Masseur (male), Masseuse (female) or Massage Therapist: Someone who can give routine massage treatments. This has a very wide range of uses for general wellbeing and relaxation.

Sports Massage Therapist: Someone who gives a deeper massage which aims to help athletes prepare and recover better from hard exercise or competition. Many non-sports people like this deeper massage because it can help relieve minor aches and pains.

Sport and Remedial Massage Therapist: A therapist who uses massage and more advanced techniques to help improve the recovery of common sports related injuries. People with non-sports injuries can find this equally beneficial.

Soft Tissue Therapist (THIS IS MY PREFERRED TITLE): A therapist who can work independently to assess, treat and offer rehabilitation advice for people suffering a wide range of minor and chronic injuries caused by any lifestyle factor. As well as treating the injury they aim to identify the underlying causes and offer more long-term improvements in physical wellbeing.

Other commonly used titles

Manual Therapist: Someone who uses their body (usually their hands) to treat another person. So, any of the above could claim this title.

Manipulative Therapist: Someone who treats by manipulating the body, so it could be used by a wide range of therapist but more usually by Osteopaths and Chiropractors.

Deep Tissue Therapist: Much the same as Sports Massage but commonly used by those who treat non-sports people and is more holistic if the person only has a holistic certificate.

Sports Therapist: There are Degrees and Diplomas in sports therapy and the title should only be used by those with these qualifications. This therapy has emerged through the sport and fitness sector (not the Complementary Healthcare sector) and its primary focus is on sports performance.

Trigger Point Therapist: Usually massage or soft tissue therapist who only does this one particular technique.

Sports Injury Therapist: Probably the same as a Sports Therapist.

What Title should we use?

Because there is no Statutory Regulation in this sector, therapists can use any title that is not otherwise protected, like Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor. However, the title must be fair and honest so you should only use the correct title that fits your qualification. It is not illegal for a Level 3 massage therapist to call themselves a Soft Tissue Therapist but this is not honest and could be judged unfair by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Professional indemnity Insurance is based on the training level of the therapist. So if a Level 3 or 4 massage therapists claims to be a Soft Tissue Therapists and treats specific injuries as if they were, they may no longer be covered by their insurance. 

Because Soft Tissue Therapy includes Sports Massage, and this can still be a big part of the job, it is still fair and honest for them to use the ‘Sports Massage’ if they want to. Indeed, many use both and have two different business cards to promote their work.

So, with that in mind, I can flip between Sports Massage Therapist and my preferred title Soft Tissue Therapist and as you have now read, it is “Kosher” 🙂

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