Fun Facts and Stats about Massage Therapy


Americans’ Reasons for Getting Massages Are Changing

Instead of seeking massage therapy solely for relaxation and pampering purposes, individuals clearly are turning to massage therapy to assist with medical conditions.

  • 34 % believe massage therapy is only a form of pampering
  • 56 % have received a massage for 1 or more of the following reasons: soreness, stiffness or spasms, to relieve or manage stress, for prevention or to improve quality of life, injury recovery or rehabilitation, to keep fit or healthy/maintain wellness, or to control headaches or migraines.
  • 39 % indicated that medical benefits would be their primary motivation for having a massage

Who Gets Massage, Where and Why?

  • According to the 2011 AMTA survey:
    •  an average of 18 % of adult Americans received at least 1 massage between July 2010 and July 2011
    • an average of 31 % of adult Americans received a massage in the previous 5 years.
  • In July 2011, 24 % of women and 13 % of men reported having a massage in the past 12 months.
  • Spas are where most people continue to receive massage
    • 23 % in July 2011 said they had their last massage at a spa

A greater percentage of people receiving massage are doing so for medical and/ or health reasons

  • 44 % of adult Americans who had a massage between July 2010 and July 2011 received it for medical or health reasons compared to 35 % the previous year.
  • Of the people who had at least 1 massage in the last 5 years, 40 % reported they did so for health conditions such as pain management, injury rehabilitation, migraine control, or overall wellness. 
  • 90 % agree that massage can be effective in reducing pain, up from 86 % in the 2010 survey.
  • 29 % of massage consumers had a massage for relaxation/stress reduction between July 2010 and July 2011.
  • Of those who have ever had a massage, 53 % say they have used massage therapy at least one time to relieve and/or manage stress.

ImageMassage Therapy for Regular Health Maintenance

75 % of individuals surveyed claim their primary reason for receiving a massage in the previous 12 months was medical (43 %) and stress (32 %) related, according to the 17th annual consumer survey sponsored by the American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®). Medical reasons include pain relief, soreness, stiffness or spasms, injury recovery, migraines, prevention, and general well-being.

  • 88 % view massage as beneficial to overall health and wellness & believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain
  • 24 % stated they have used massage therapy for pain relief

Health Care Providers Recommending Massage as a Viable Form of Treatment

Health care providers and doctors are more commonly viewing massage therapy as a legitimate option to address health concerns. Of consumers who discussed massage therapy with their doctors:

  • 14 % were referred to a massage therapist by their doctor
  • 48 % indicated they were encouraged by their doctor to receive a massage
  • 13 % were told by their doctor that a massage might benefit them
  • 53 % said their physician has recommended they get a massage

Massage therapists received more referrals from health care professionals in 2011.

  • In July 2011, >39 million American adults 15 % discussed massage therapy with their doctors or health care providers in the previous year, compared to 16 % the year before
    • Of those, 31 % of their health care providers strongly recommended massage therapy, compared to 35 % in 2009.
      • physicians led the way in recommending massage (52 % vs. 50 % in 2010)
      • chiropractors (50 % versus 35 % in 2010)
      • physical therapists (49 % vs. 38 % in 2010)  
      • nurses (26 % versus 13 % in 2010)
  • Almost all massage therapists receive referrals from healthcare professionals.
    • 96 % of massage therapists received at least 1 referral every 6 months from a hospital or medical office in 2011. 
    • On average, massage therapists received about 4 referrals per month


Massage therapists and consumers favor integration of massage into health care.

  • More than half of adult Americans (59%) would like to see their insurance cover massage therapy
  • The majority of massage therapists (96%) believe massage therapy should be considered part of the health care field

Massage Therapy Research

The therapeutic benefits of massage continue to be researched and studied. Recent research has shown the effectiveness of massage for the following conditions:

  • Cancer-related fatigue.
  • Low back pain
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Reducing post-operative pain
  • Boosting the body’s immune system functioning
  • Decreasing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing headache frequency
  • Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Decreasing pain in cancer patients

Massage Therapy for the Treatment of Depression in Individuals with HIV

Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine4 indicates that massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression for individuals with HIV disease. The study lasted eight weeks, and results show massage significantly reduced the severity of depression beginning at week four and continuing at weeks six and eight. American Massage Therapy Association President Winona Bontrager says of the study, “This research suggests that regular therapeutic massage could be a useful tool in the integrated treatment of depression for patients with HIV.” 

Massage Therapy to Reduce Anxiety in Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy

Research published in Applied Nursing Research5 shows that back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue. “This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy within the full cancer treatment spectrum, particularly during the often mentally and physically exhausting chemotherapy process,” says American Massage Therapy Association President Winona Bontrager.

Massage Therapy for Reduced Anxiety and Depression in Military Veterans

Research published in Military Medicine6 reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage. Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage. This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Massage Therapy for Nurses to Reduce Work-related Stress

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice  shows that massage for nurses during work hours can help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. “This study affirms the important role massage therapy can play in the work setting, in this case to ease stress for health care providers who, in turn, can better provide optimal patient care,” says Bontrager.

Scientific and Medical Research: current findings 

AMTA Position Statements: 2006 – 2013


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