Runners massage NYC in Union Square | Living Link Massage Therapy serving Manhattan NY


This post is part of a series on Frequently Asked Questions that I hear from my clients or friends.  If you have any other particular questions about the massage experience, always feel free to reach out.

Scope of practice describes the processes, tools & techniques, and areas of activity for a healthcare professional and thereby delineate the boundaries of their professional license.

As I understand it, the scope of practice for an LMT in NY state includes:
  • soft tissue manipulation – all of the many strokes and techniques used in a professional massage session, all intended to influence the soft tissue of the body (ie. not working on bones, or internal organs) and by extension the nervous system and from there the whole human!
  • instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation – using tools of different kinds to facilitate a change in the state of the soft tissue
  • hot/cold therapy
  • cupping
  • stretching
  • recommending self-care techniques and tools to extend the benefit of massage
Note: Intentionally performing Chiropractic style adjustments, and anything involving breaking the skin barrier are definitely not included.  Nor is the prescription of strengthening exercises.
Some broad non-scientific descriptions to compliment the above list:
  • Soft tissue – includes muscles, skin, and fascia.  Fascia includes tendons, ligaments, all the many layers just under the skin, the periosteum, and much more.
  • Nervous system
    • Includes both the Central Nervous System (CNS) which in turn includes the brain and spinal cord
    • and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) which includes all other nerves throughout the body.  Roughly speaking PNS nerves deliver messages of sensation and messages of action between the CNS and the rest of the body’s systems.
    • The PNS includes the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which regulates all of the unconscious bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, breathing and so on.  Massage is thought to be especially effective at encouraging the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic aspect of the ANS.

Read more in my Frequently Asked Questions blog series:

Can I talk during a therapeutic massage?
Will I be in pain during a therapeutic massage?
How should I feel after a therapeutic massage?
What is chair massage?
Do I need to be naked during a therapeutic massage?
What to expect in a professional massage?
What is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)?
What do you learn in massage school?
What kind of massage do you do?
What kind of music do you play during a massage?
Should I give you a tip after the massage?

FAQ – What is a scope of practice? And what is yours as a Licensed Massage Therapist?

5 thoughts on “FAQ – What is a scope of practice? And what is yours as a Licensed Massage Therapist?

  • August 31, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Is cupping specifically mentioned as being included in the scope of practice for massage therapists in New York state? I could not find mention of it on the NYS Education Department website. If so, are all kinds of cupping included?

    • October 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Hi Anna! Thanks for your question. I’m only just seeing it now. To the best of my knowledge, non-fire, moving cupping is within the scope of practice for LMTs in NY. Fire cupping is out, and the stationary cupping done a lot in Chinese medical practice require a different license. But that is based on checking with other professionals. I also haven’t found anything specific about it on the NYSED website.

  • June 23, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Regarding cupping… Its difficult to find anything specific on NYS’s Office of Professions’s site – however… If you choose to add anything other than your hands to your treatment arsenal, make sure your professional liability insurance will cover you in the event of a lawsuit.

  • November 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Is providing body scrubs or body wraps where product application is involved under the NY state massage therapy scope of license? Could not find this information in the NY education website. Wondering because my job asked if I’d do scrubs and wraps

    • December 3, 2019 at 10:50 am

      Hi Alannah,

      Thanks for asking! Just seeing your comment now, but hopefully this will still be a little helpful.

      I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ll tell you what I have experienced. I worked at one spa in NYC for 2 years where LMTs regularly provided body scrubs, applying product to the skin. I then began work at a sister spa of theirs in upstate NY, and the manager explained that only licensed estheticians may apply product to the skin, and LMTs did not do body scrubs.

      Your best bet is to call or email the NY State board and ask them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *