Scope of practice. You may have heard your massage therapist use that term, but what does it mean? Well among other things, it means that we can’t diagnose or prescribe. It also means that we can’t give you advice on things we’re not trained in; like skin care or nutrition (that includes supplements).
It prevents us from telling you what’s wrong with you. That’s diagnosing and only a handful of healthcare professions (doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, perhaps a few more as well) are allowed to do it, and many of those are limited to the conditions they treat. We can tell you that the fascia (connective tissue) on the bottom of your foot feels restricted, but we can’t say that you have plantar fasciitis (a painful shortening of the fascia on the bottom of the foot), even if you have every classic symptom of it.
So, we can tell you how the tissue feels and that when tissue feels this way there is often corresponding pain; but we can’t tell you what it means in terms of a diagnosis. We are not taught to diagnose, and quite frankly if my doctor only had 6-24 months of training (average lengths of various massage therapy programs), I wouldn’t want him or her diagnosing me, either.
Scope of practice also prohibits us from telling you what supplements or pain relievers to take; that would be prescribing. We can tell you that muscles function best when they have enough magnesium, calcium, and potassium; but we can’t tell you to take it as a supplement. We also can’t tell you how much you should take. While we may have some knowledge in this area, our license limits us to soft tissue manipulation (massage and bodywork).
We are honored that you trust us and our knowledge enough to ask our opinion on these things. Really, we are. It’s just that we can get into huge trouble for doing so, up to and including losing our license to practice. So Please don’t ask us to.
**Bonus points to anyone who can tell me the TV series, character, and/or actor I pay homage to in the title. Extra gold stars if you can tell me all three :-)**