Massage Therapy Abbreviations and Acronyms

Common Abbreviations in Massage Therapy – A Complete List

Abbreviations and acronyms are commonly used in all fields within the healthcare industry including massage therapy. Individual professions such as massage therapists, nurses, physicians, dentists and physical therapists tend to have their own set of abbreviations that they use most often. There are other abbreviations such as DOB, Dx, Hx, and SOAP that are consistently used across all health and wellness professions. It can be confusing, especially for new therapists, to remember the correct way to abbreviate commonly used terms when documenting or when reading another practitioner’s notes.

What are abbreviations? Abbreviations are a shortened form of commonly used words, terms or phrases. Abbreviations have been used in the medical field ever since the first medical texts, prescriptions and notes were written. This form of shorthand speeds up the written communication process, and may also involve the use of symbols.

This post was created as a guide to abbreviations for massage therapists. In this reference article, you’ll find a list of 200 of the most common abbreviations that massage therapists encounter in the course of performing their job, and may use when charting their client treatments.

Why use abbreviations when charting?

Most healthcare providers including massage therapists use abbreviations when charting their treatment notes. There are three main reasons why massage therapists and other healthcare providers use abbreviations:

  1. To save time. Documentation can be a time-consuming task for massage therapists, and abbreviating terms can save time. Of the three reasons, this is the probably the most common.
  2. To save space. Using abbreviations when charting can also save space on your massage forms. Limited space is less of an issue when electronic documentation systems are used.
  3. To avoid spelling. Many massage terms that therapists need to document are long and can be difficult to spell, especially anatomy terms. For example, instead of writing sternocleidomastoid, acromioclavicular, or interphalangeal, the therapist may choose to write SCM, AC or IP. These abbreviations can also make your charting more concise and less awkward.

What’s the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym?

An abbreviation, as defined above, is a shortened or contracted word or phrase. Acronyms are a specific type of abbreviation. An acronym is formed by using the first letter of each word in a multi-word term to create a new and pronounceable term. Examples of acronyms include ROM (range of motion), SITS muscles of the shoulder (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis), SOAP note (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan), SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound), and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

An initialism is a specific type of acronym. It is formed the same way by using the first letters of each word, but the newly formed term is not pronounced as a word. Instead, the letters are just read out. Examples of initialisms related to massage include AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association), FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards), FAQ (frequently asked questions), and NCBTMB (National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork). Some terms such as MBLEx (Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam) could be considered an acronym or initialism.

Another special type of abbreviation is a mnemonic, which is used as a memorization technique. These are often used by students studying anatomy and physiology, and are not intended to be used in clinical documentation.

Uses of Abbreviations in Massage Documentation

There are several uses for abbreviations in massage documentation:

  • Treatment techniques. Massage therapists may use abbreviations to quickly document the treatment techniques that they use during a client session. Examples of abbreviations for massage modalities and techniques include MFR (myofascial release), TPT (trigger point therapy), FBM (full body massage), MET (muscle energy technique), CST (craniosacral therapy), and DTM (deep tissue massage).
  • General abbreviations. These include standard abbreviations used across most healthcare settings, or even in other industries. Some of these include: R (right), Min (minimum), Max (maximum), > (greater than), (+) (positive), and MVA (motor vehicle accident).
  • Medical abbreviations. This type of abbreviation is used throughout most medical offices. These include abbreviations for diagnoses, vital signs, tests, conditions, injuries, common pathologies, procedures and medications. As with all types of abbreviations, it is important to use only standard abbreviations that cannot be misinterpreted. Examples of standardized abbreviations are BP (blood pressure), HTN (hypertension), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), LBP (low back pain), DVT (deep vein thrombosis), OA (osteoarthritis), and NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
  • Anatomy abbreviations. Anatomy terms can be quite long, so abbreviating them can save time and space when charting. These may include directions of movement, relative position or region of the body. Examples of anatomical abbreviations include: C-spine (cervical spine), ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine), DF (dorsiflexion), RUQ (right upper quadrant), LS (lumbosacral), Dist. (distal), BLE (bilateral lower extremities), and PF (plantarflexion).
  • Abbreviations for muscles. Many of the muscle groups, individual muscles, and other soft tissue structures that massage therapists treat during a client session can be abbreviated too. For example: abs (abdominal muscles), glutes (gluteal muscles), traps (trapezius muscles), hams (hamstring muscle group), and lats (latissimus dorsi muscle).
  • Professional titles. Massage therapists may use abbreviations for the titles, licensure or certifications of healthcare professionals that they communicate with. Therapists may encounter these abbreviated titles in referrals from various physicians, or in client intake documentation. Examples of these include: LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist), DO (Doctor of Osteopathy), MD (Doctor of Medicine), DC (Doctor of Chiropractic), PT (Physical Therapist), and NP (Naturopathic Physician).
massage abbreviations

Problems with Abbreviations

There are a few pitfalls to watch out for when using abbreviations and acronyms in your documentation. The main potential problem is that abbreviations can be misinterpreted. One term can have multiple ways that it can be abbreviated. Another problem is that one abbreviation could stand for multiple things. Here are a few examples:

  • MR can stand for mitral regurgitation or mental retardation.
  • MS can mean multiple sclerosis or morphine sulfate (common hospital error).
  • DOA can mean Date of Admission or Dead on Arrival.

Fortunately for massage therapists, the consequences of misinterpreting an abbreviation are typically less severe than for other healthcare providers, such as for pharmacists or surgeons. It’s also important to be aware that different groups have different abbreviations. Fx may mean “friction” for a massage therapist, but Fx means “fracture” to most other healthcare providers.

It’s best to use standardized abbreviations and avoid making up your own abbreviations unless you are the only person who will be reading your massage documentation. Consistency is key. If you’re not sure what the abbreviation is, it’s best to go ahead and write it out. “When in doubt, spell it out.”

Massage therapists can also run into problems when using electronic documentation if their computer system does not have a definition for the abbreviation. Or if it assumes a different definition entirely. This could result in some auto-correct errors.

*Tip: Always assume that your clients do not know medical or massage abbreviations. So if you send your client home with some instructions such as some home exercises or how to perform a certain self-care modality, avoid using abbreviations or jargon that they may not understand.

Recommended Massage Abbreviations and Symbols

The following table presents a list of abbreviations that massage therapists commonly use in their documentation. The abbreviations below are fairly standard, but your massage office may have a specific list of abbreviations that they want all clinicians to use in order to be more consistent, especially if you work at a medical or rehab clinic. The important thing is to be clear and be consistent.

Abbreviation or SymbolMeaning
=Equal to
<Less than
>Greater than
~Approximate, about
AAActive assisted
AAROMActive-assisted range of motion
ACLAnterior cruciate ligament
ADLActivities of daily living
AFOAnkle-foot orthosis
AISActive Isolated Stretching
APAnterior to posterior
AROMActive range of motion
ASAPAs soon as possible
ASISAnterior superior iliac spine
BIDTwo times per day
Bilat. or circled “B”Bilateral
BLEBilateral lower extremities
BOSBase of support
BPBlood pressure
bpmBeats per minute
BUEBilateral upper extremities
C-spineCervical spine
C/OComplains of
CCChief complaint
CMTCertified Massage Therapist
COGCenter of gravity
CPRCardiopulmonary resuscitation
CSFCerebrospinal fluid
CSTCraniosacral therapy
CTConnective tissue
CTSCarpal tunnel syndrome
D/CDiscontinue or discharge
DCDoctor of Chiropractic
DDDDegenerative disc disease
DIPDistal interphalangeal (joints)
DJDDegenerative joint disease
DMDiabetes mellitus
DNTDid not test
DODoctor of Osteopathy
DOBDate of birth
d/tDue to
DTDeep tissue
DTMDeep tissue massage
DVTDeep vein thrombosis
e.g.For example
ESErector spinae muscle group (spinalis, longissimus, iliocostalis)
EWEnergy work
Ext. or ExExtension
f/bFollowed by
FBMFull body massage
FNPFamily Nurse Practitioner
Freq.Frequent or frequency
FxFriction or fracture
gastrocGastrocnemius muscle
glutesGluteal muscles
GPGeneral practitioner (doctor)
hamsHamstring muscles
HNPHerniated nucleus pulposus
IPInpatient or interphalangeal
ITBIliotibial band
L-spineLumbar spine
LatsLatissimus dorsi
LBLow back
LBPLow back pain
LCLLateral collateral ligament
Lev scapLevator scapula muscle
LLELeft lower extremity
LLQLeft lower quadrant (of the abdomen)
LMTLicensed Massage Therapist
LOBLoss of balance
LTGLong-term goal
LUELeft upper extremity
LUQLeft upper quadrant (of the abdomen)
MCLMedial Collateral Ligament
MDMedical doctor
METMuscle energy technique
MFRMyofascial release
MHMoist heat (from hot pack or fomentation)
MLDManual lymphatic drainage
MMTManual muscle test
MTMassage Therapist
MVAMotor vehicle accident
N/ANot applicable
NMTNeuromuscular therapy
NSAIDNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
NWBNon weight bearing
OPOutpatient or osteoporosis
OTOccupational Therapist / Therapy
p (with line over it)After
P or PnPain
PAPosterior to anterior, or Physician Assistant
PCLPosterior cruciate ligament
pecsPectoral muscles
PIPProximal interphalangeal (joints)
Pirif.Piriformis muscle
PMHxPast medical history
PNFProprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation
PostAfter or posterior
PRNAs needed
PROMPassive range of motion
PSISPosterior superior iliac spine
PTPhysical Therapist / Therapy
PVDPeripheral vascular disease
QLQuadratus lumborum muscle
QOLQuality of life
quadsQuadricep muscle group
R/ORule out (e.g. R/O contraindications for massage)
RARheumatoid arthritis
RCRotator cuff
rhombRhomboid muscles
RIReciprocal inhibition
RICERest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (first aid)
RLERight lower extremity
RLQRight lower quadrant (of abdomen)
RMTRegistered Massage Therapist, or Remedial Massage Therapist
RNRegistered Nurse
ROMRange of motion
RotRotate or rotation
RROMResisted range of motion
RUERight upper extremity
RUQRight upper quadrant (of abdomen)
S/ASame as
S/PStatus post (after a treatment or procedure)
SCMSternocleidomastoid (muscle)
SISacroiliac (region)
SIJSacroiliac joint
SOAPSubjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan (i.e. SOAP note)
SOBShortness of breath
STGShort-term goal
T-spineThoracic spine
TFLTensor fascia latae
TherexTherapeutic exercise
THATotal hip arthroplasty
TKATotal knee arthroplasty
TMJTemporomandibular joint
TOSThoracic outlet syndrome
TP or TrPTrigger point
TPTTrigger point therapy
TrapsTrapezius muscle
WFLWithin functional limits
WNLWithin normal limits
xtimes or repetitions
XFFCross fiber friction

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