Massage FAQs


Q: What is relaxation massage?

A: “Relaxation massage” is not a term that is used in Ohio law. It is the term that people commonly use to describe non-therapeutic massage. Non-therapeutic massage does not treat any health condition. Examples of health conditions include, but are not limited to: headache, muscle ache, digestive problems, pain of any sort, anxiety, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular issues, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, TMJ Syndrome, scoliosis, central nervous system disorders, diabetes, headaches, kidney function, PMS, or sinusitis.


Q: Who regulates the practice of relaxation massage?

A: Non-therapeutic massage may be regulated by local governments such as cities or townships. The regulations are generally for the purpose of regulating potential illicit activities. Check with your local government whether there are any regulations for non-therapeutic massage. When there are regulations and required licensing, it is common that both the person performing the massage and the facility at which the massage will be performed are required to be licensed. Not every city or township regulates non-therapeutic massage.


Q: What education and certification is needed to perform relaxation massage?

A: “Relaxation massage” is regulated by local cities and townships as non-therapeutic massage. Each local government that chooses to regulate non-therapeutic massage sets its own licensing requirements. Some cities/townships require formal education, and some do not. 


Q: Is a cosmetologist or esthetician allowed to perform relaxation massage?

A: A cosmetologist or esthetician is not authorized to practice massage therapy; however, their scope of practice is determined by the Cosmetology Board.


Q: I plan to get a massage therapy license in the future. May I perform relaxation massage until then? 

A: Yes, but it may slow down the process of getting a license as an investigation may occur to prove that you were not performing any form of therapeutic massage. Example - a customer comes in because they have a headache - this customer cannot be treated with a relaxation massage because it will be “therapeutic.”



Q: What is massage therapy?

A: Massage therapy is recognized in Ohio law as the treatment of disorders of the human body by the manipulation of soft tissue through the systematic external application of massage techniques. Massage techniques include touch, stroking, friction, vibration, percussion, kneading, stretching, compression, and joint movements within the normal physiologic range of motion; and the supplemental use of the external application of water, heat, cold, topical preparations, and mechanical devices.


Modalities that involve the manipulation of the soft tissue for a therapeutic purpose constitute massage therapy even if commonly known by another name, such as reflexology, reiki, polarity, etc.


Q: What agency regulates the practice of massage therapy in Ohio?

A: The State Medical Board licenses massage therapists in Ohio.


Q: What education is needed for a massage therapy license?

A: To be eligible for a license the following requirements must be met:

1. Be at least eighteen years of age and of good moral character;

2. Submit criminal record checks (FBI & Ohio BCI);

3. Have attained high school graduation or its equivalent;

4. Hold one of the following:

  • A diploma or certificate from a school, college, or institution in good standing as determined by the board, showing the completion of the required courses of instruction;

  • A diploma or certificate from a school, college, or institution in another state or jurisdiction showing completion of a course of instruction that meets course requirements determined by the board through rules adopted under section 4731.05 of the Revised Code;

  • For not less than five years preceding application, a current license, registration, or certificate in good standing in another state for massage therapy.

5.  Have passed the MBLEx (Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam).


Q: Can massage therapists use light-based devices?

A: No, not at all.


Q: Can massage therapists perform animal massage?

A: Massage therapy does not include animal massage. Check with the Ohio Veterinarian Board for requirements to perform massage on animals.


Q: Can massage therapists perform facials?

A: No, massage therapists cannot perform facials for beautification. They may provide a massage of the face.


Q: Are there specific regulations for equipment and space layout for massage therapists who work in a salon licensed by the cosmetology board?

A: The Medical Board does not regulate the facility or require specific equipment. However, in order to practice within the minimal standards of care, the massage therapist must ensure that there is cleanliness, privacy for the client, and appropriate draping of the client.


Q: How does a massage therapist become part of an insurance company’s panel?

A: This is a question you might direct to the Ohio Massage Therapy Association.


Q: Is a license required to practice reflexology, reiki, or polarity?

A: A modality that involves the manipulation of the soft tissue for a therapeutic purpose constitutes massage therapy even if commonly known by another name. The practitioner must obtain a massage therapy license from the State Medical Board of Ohio.


Q: Can a Massage Therapist use cannabidiol (CBD) oil?

A: Yes. SB 57 changed the definition of marijuana in Ohio. Hemp and hemp products such as CBD oil, containing no more than three-tenths of a percent (0.3%) THC, are no longer considered to be marijuana in Ohio and are therefore legal to use outside of the medical marijuana program. A massage therapist, acting within their scope of practice may apply CBD oil as a topical application if it has less than 0.3% THC. Similarly, hemp products can now be sold outside of a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Please see more information from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, who is tasked with establishing Ohio’s Hemp Cultivation and Processing Program.


Q: What are the regulations for setting up a Massage Therapy business?

A: The State Medical Board of Ohio does not regulate the practice facility or business entity. An MT, however, is expected to have appropriate equipment in order to provide the client privacy and massage services that meet the minimal standard of care. An MT may also consult a private attorney or the American Massage Therapy Association – Ohio Chapter for assistance.


Q: Is a Massage Therapist required to charge sales tax?

A: Ohio sales tax law requires that a sales tax be collected for a massage. However, there is no duty to collect sales tax on a massage performed on the order of a physician. Please direct questions to the Ohio Department of Taxation. An MT may also consult a private attorney or the American Massage Therapy Association – Ohio Chapter for assistance.