Massage parlour cards placed on parked cars are common in areas such as Bur Dubai and Deira. Image Credit: Sanka Kar/Gulf News

Dubai: Getting a massage instead of seeing a doctor for chronic health ailments such as back pain could, apart from worsening your health, also get you into trouble with the law if you use unlicensed services.

Despite regulations to ensure that massage therapists in Dubai are qualified, there are still massage centres and beauty salons who continue to employ staff with inadequate qualifications, Gulf News can reveal.

Dr Hussam Touma from Medcare Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre in Dubai said people have a misconception that a massage can act as a replacement for regular medical care.

It is even more crucial to check if the massage therapist is qualified because an unqualified masseuse could aggravating an underlying problem, Dr Touma said.

Getting a massage for an undiagnosed health issue, Dr Touma warned, can cause several problems ranging from severe and persistent muscle cramps to a slipped disc and damage to the nerves, especially when an unqualified masseuse is involved.

Dr Touma explained that a “massage can help reduce pain, improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and improve lymphatic drainage and joint mobility. So, people opt for a massage when they feel some tiredness, or mild muscle tension”.

If these problems became frequent, however, and pain radiates to the arms or legs, or is accompanied by numbness, tingling, sensory deficits, or muscle weakness, Dr Touma advised people to visit a doctor for assessment and proper diagnosis.

Bianca Hoffmann, a therapist team leader at Talise Spa at Burj Al Arab, agreed. She said a massage is a way to pamper oneself, but it is important to use a qualified massage therapist. “Lack of knowledge and techniques can easily cause discomfort or even injury,” she said.

An unqualified therapist will not guide the client when proper consultation needs to be done, she warned.

Mehreen Ashraf, a physiotherapist at Aster Hospital, pointed out cases of residents with an underlying medical condition only seeing doctors when they felt that their bodies did not respond to a massage session.

“I came across a case where a patient with calcium deficiency-osteoporosis opted for a massage. She complained of pain immediately after the session and there was swelling. The orthopaedic diagnosed a fracture at the hip joint,” she said.

Mehreen advised people not to neglect the slightest pain and seek proper medical advice when it becomes frequent. Only a doctor can tell if massage will relieve pain, whether a physiotherapist is required, or whether a massage must be avoided altogether, she said.


Gulf News spoke to Dubai Municipality and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to understand who regulates massage therapists in Dubai. It remains unclear as to which government authorities are charged with ensuring only fully qualified massage therapists are hired. The Department of Economic Development only gives the facility and trade licence, but DHA advised the public to ask the facility about whether the massage therapist has a DHA licence.

Dubai Health Authority says...

Dr Laila Al Marzouqi, director of health regulation department, said: “The department licenses massage therapists. Additional checks are in place for therapists who conduct medical massage therapies.

”DHA is responsible for licensing massage therapists across Dubai, but only conducts inspections of medical facilities and medical spas.All massage therapists should have two years of experience, a Basic Life Support course certification and a training programme that is to equivalent to 600 accredited hours. Medical massage therapists also need to pass a written assessment examination to be licensed.

Inspections of recreational spas and parlours is conducted by other government entities, where they check whether massage therapists have a DHA license. They inform the DHA of any violations with regard to healthcare professional licensing.

Dubai Municipality says...

Hafiz Golum, director of the health control department, said: “We look at certain things like if staff are wearing uniforms, hygiene, and if medical equipment is being used for massages without authorisation. We also check if they are informing clients to seek medical advices from the doctor in case of sickness before receiving the service, but we don’t inspect qualifications, certificates and licenses.

”No inspections of qualifications of masseuses in salons and massage parloursMunicipality officials only ensure that massage centres and spas comply with public health requirements. PrecautionsConsult a doctor when moderate to severe muscle tensions and aches become frequent.Ask your doctor about the most effective treatment plan.

Ask a potential massage therapist about their licence or certification.

Don’t use massage to relieve frequent pain in the back or neck.Don’t use the services of an unqualified masseuse.