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Polis Report

Legal Rub

By Will Harper

With the increasing popularity of alternative health care, massage therapy has become more accepted as a legitimate craft. Nevertheless, many cities still treat massage as a facet of the world's oldest profession. Some require massage therapists to be tested for venereal disease. Many others, like the city of Santa Clara, require applicants to pay $185 for a criminal background check. Los Gatos considers the therapists illegitimate unless they work under a doctor or registered nurse.

Last year ArLyne Diamond of Santa Clara and retired San Carlos police officer Peter Nannarone surveyed massage regulations in seven Northern California cities. They concluded that laws tend to reflect the communities in which they're enacted, not necessarily the legitimacy of the massage therapists working there. Diamond says Santa Clara County is predominantly made up of relatively conservative suburbanites; local cities, therefore, often view massage with a skeptical eye.

Heather McKee, a massage therapist who recently moved here from the East Bay, found the valley's requirements insulting. "I've always considered myself a health care professional" says McKee, who attended a nationally recognized massage institute in Emeryville. "Here, I feel like I'm some kind of criminal."

Last year, after consulting with massage professionals, Santa Clara lifted its requirement for a VD test and now forces applicants who haven't taken the national massage certification test to take a 100-question technical exam on therapeutic massage practices, ostensibly to weed out pretenders.

Diamond points out that other professionals, such as teachers and psychologists, must also be fingerprinted and tested for communicable diseases like tuberculosis. "Massage therapists have a chip on their shoulder," Diamond says, "but they're not being singled out."

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From the January 30-February 5, 1997 issue of Metro

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