Arkansas Bill Would Allow Massage Therapy Training at Spas—Bill Amended March 17, 2021

The Arkansas House of Representatives introduced House Bill 1440 (HB 1440) in February 2021. HB 1440 was amended March 17, 2021, in the Arkansas House of Representatives. With the inclusion of the amendment, the bill would allow online education for an entire massage therapy training program and in-person education by a master massage therapist or instructor at a spa or massage clinic if the clinic or spa has a relationship with a massage therapy school.
ABMP is opposing HB 1440 as it is written, even with the March 17 amendment. The issues we have with the amendment language are the following:

  1. It does not mention that the school has to be approved by the state. This omission could lead to unregulated and unvetted diploma mills setting up and working with spas and clinics.
  2. The language in Section(2)(A) refers to “a licensed massage therapy clinic or massage therapy spa.” Licensed massage therapy clinics or spas do not exist in Arkansas, as Arkansas does not currently require business licensure to have a practice. Entities that offer massage therapy are required to provide addresses and phone numbers to the state, but are not licensed.
  3. Section (2)(B) states that if a clinic or spa cannot find a school to work with them, then the clinic or spa can apply for an exemption. This workaround conflicts with the rest of the Massage Practice Act, which requires an applicant to prove they have a transcript from a school with 500 hours of in-classroom instruction.

As we stated in our previous email, we believe online education in a pandemic can be helpful—with limitations. The portion of hands-on training a school provides should be performed at a school—not a spa or clinic. The current Arkansas Massage Practice Act states education should be performed by a master massage therapist in a post-secondary massage therapy school that has been approved by the state, and that to obtain a massage therapy license, one must:

Present a high school diploma, high school equivalency diploma approved by the Adult Education Section, or college transcript and credentials issued by a massage therapy school accepted by the department or a like institution with no less than five hundred (500) hours of in-classroom instruction. Ark. Code. Ann. §17-86-303(a)(4). (emphasis added)

We support a thoughtful amendment of HB 1440 to allow distance education for courses that can be taken online, such as anatomy and physiology, pathology, contraindications, business, and ethics. The 225 hours of “technique” training should be administered at a massage therapy school accepted by the department, not at a spa or clinic.

ABMP seeks to stipulate that if training is offered at a spa or clinic, there should be no work requirement that could essentially be considered indentured servitude to the spa or clinic.

We encourage you to contact the sponsors of the bill, Representative Pilkington and Senator Hester, to let them know your thoughts about HB 1440. We encourage you to use this advocacy email template courtesy of ABMP to voice your opinion. Simply fill out the email template with the appropriate information and send it to the sponsors and your representatives and senators. Find your state representative here and your state senator here.

The bill was amended in the House and should now be on its way to the Senate. We presume that once it reaches the Senate floor it will be assigned to the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. You can also contact the members of this committee to express your opinion:

Senator Cecile Bledsoe
Senator Scott Flippo
Senator Breanne Davis
Senator Ben Gilmore
Senator Kim Hammer  
Senator Bart Hester  
Senator Dan Sullivan  
Senator David Wallace

If you have questions or concerns, email us at