Massage Therapist or Masseuse…What’s the Difference?

Many people interchange the terms masseuse and massage therapist; however, w a lot of people do not know is that there is a significant difference between the two. Most people are stuck in the past and think that the terms are the same. Let’s start with the main definitions; a massage therapist is a person who treats clients by using touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, help heal injuries, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients. A masseuse or masseur is a person who performs massage professionally that is untrained and unlicensed. People who tend to use these terms confuse them and use them interchangeably which is far from the truth.

A massage therapist is either registered (RMP) or licensed (LMT) both have received full massage therapy training to master the techniques of massage and pain alleviation. Only those who have studied and completed a course that is government recognized, and passed national and state board tests can be entitled to be a massage therapist. Each state in the USA has an individual board test. Each massage therapist has studied several subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pathology and has performed several hours of massage under instructor supervision.

The difference between an RMP and LMT is: An individual who is licensed [LMT] to practice therapeutic massage MAY practice in a medical health care provider’s office, hospital, or another healthcare facility for the purpose of providing massage. An individual who is registered [RMP] to practice non-therapeutic massage MAY NOT practice in a medical health care provider’s office, hospital, or another healthcare facility for the purpose of providing massage. (

As a massage therapist, you have the knowledge to differentiate between various musculoskeletal conditions. A masseuse does not possess a license or registration and has not undergone the necessary training to assess these conditions properly. In the state of Maryland RMPs and LMTs are required every two years to renew their license or registration, and to take a certain amount of continuing education classes in massage as well as communicable diseases and ethics.

As a massage client, there are a couple of things to look out for when going for a massage to make sure a licensed massage therapist is performing it. Before being treated by a licensed massage therapist, the staff or therapist themselves will have you fill out a medical intake form about yourself. Ask for proof that the facility is licensed by the state or local board of health. Ask to see each therapist’s license as these should be posted or easily provided to you upon your request.  Ask if the office or spa is operating on appropriate business hours? If the facility has “passed” these initial tests, then you are likely in a legitimate facility and will be treated by a provider who can ease your aches and pains and put you on a path to recovery.

Massage therapists may not be directly correct you when they are called a masseuse, but they will give subtle hints. For example, if a client asks do you like being a masseuse? The answer you most likely will receive is yes I enjoy being a licensed massage therapist. Massage therapists take great pride in what they do and in the education they have received. They find pleasure in seeing you the client walk out of the door with fewer aches and pains and look forward to the next opportunity to help you!