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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Massage Tips and Trivia: More Americans get massage for health issues than only relaxation

"43% of Americans report getting a massage to help with pain management and other health issues, while only 29% say their massage was for relaxation"

According to surveys by AMTA and ABMP in 2019 of people who had received massage that past year, it seems that more and more people are moving toward using massage as a medical modality instead of only seeing it as a luxury for the occasional relaxing treat. Now that does not mean that relaxation isn't a medical modality. Not being able to relax contributes to higher cortisol levels, which can increase blood pressure, increase anxiety and insomnia, and throw lots of other body systems out of wack.

It is encouraging for the massage profession that people are seeing and using massage to integrate and accompany their medical needs. I have many articles on this site alone, not to mention thousands on other sites across the internet that scream about all the medical benefits of massage, from easing pain to helping heal injuries, to increasing mental wellness. Massage had always been a medical modality, it is one of the oldest recorded forms of healing, and ultimately is an instinctual, natural way to heal and care for un-wellness. It is only in our more recent history that massage was shifted through things like advertising and accessibility to become seen as a luxury, or something for the rich. Likewise, as many tv and media outlets enjoy sensationalizing, there is a dark side to the massage world in which the power of touch is used to fill other physical desires, leading to massage being viewed in some circles as prostitution and this dark side can be a front for human trafficking.

Unfortunately, as any business with a brand knows, it is hard to fight major advertising and opinions formed by what is on a screen, and what celebrities do and say. The good news with this study seems to be that people are seeing past the sensationalism, and looking to massage as it is intended. Perhaps it is because the state of our health care system is so frustrating to many people. People feel that the way they are treated by professionals in the health care field have their hands tied due to red tape and regulations. Decisions are made by drug companies and insurance companies rather than decisions that are designed to help and prevent illness and pain in place of another drug or surgery. They say 'Necessity is the mother of invention', and while Massage Therapy isn't a new invention, the necessity of needing to look at alternatives for wellness care has re-ignited the discovery and use of this long standing staple of the medical world.

So even though this study shows that people are starting to view massage through more of a medical lens, this study was done of people who already get massages, and therefore know the benefits. The challenge to my field is to now spread that education to those who still see massage as either an unobtainable luxury or some seedy, perversion. Education is one way that can help, and the spreading of the good word about massage by those who already know the benefits of massage to their friends and families is the strongest way to help improve the perceptions of how people view and use massage therapy.

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