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Massage Therapy Statistics from the American Massage Therapy Association

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2013 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet

The following is a compilation of data gathered by the American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®) from U.S. government statistics, surveys of consumers and massage therapists and recent clinical studies on the efficacy of massage. These data provide an overview of the current state of the massage therapy profession, public and medical acceptance of the value of massage and increasing consumer usage of massage therapy in the U.S.

  1. Massage Therapy As A Profession
  2. Who Is Today’s Massage Therapist?
  3. Massage Therapy as a Career
  4. Education and Credentials Valued In The Massage Therapy Profession
  5. State Regulation Of The Massage Profession Rapidly Growing
  6. Who Gets Massage, Where and Why?
  7. Massage And Healthcare
  8. Massage Therapy Research

The Massage Therapy Profession

  • In 2005, massage therapy was projected to be a $6 to $11 billion a year industry.1
  • AMTA estimates that in 2010, massage therapy was a $12-17 billion industry.2 Continuing economic uncertainty in the country in 2012 results in an AMTA estimate that massage therapy was a $8 to $12 billion industry.
  • It is estimated that there are 280,000 to 320,000 massage therapists and massage school students in the United States.2
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2012, employment for massage therapists is expected to increase 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than average for all occupations.3
  • Between July 2011 and July 2012, roughly 34.5 million adult Americans (16 percent) had a massage at least once.4

Who Is Today's Massage Therapist?

Today’s massage therapists are…5

  • Most likely to enter the massage therapy profession as a second career.
  • Predominantly female (85 percent).
  • Younger than in the past. Forty-one percent are younger than 35 compared to 25 percent last year.
  • Most likely to be members of a professional organization.
  • Most likely to be sole practitioners
  • Working an average of 17 hours a week providing massage. (Excludes time spent on other business tasks such as billing, bookkeeping, supplies, maintaining equipment, marketing, scheduling, etc.)
  • Charging an average of $62 for one hour of massage vs. $59 in 2011.
  • Earning an average wage of $31 an hour (including tips) for all massage-related work.
  • Heavily dependent on repeat clients.
  • Likely to provide massage therapy in a number of settings, including clients home/office, spa/salon, their own office, a health care setting, health club/athletic facility, or massage therapy only franchise or chain.
  • Use an average of seven modalities/techniques
  • Eighty-nine percent (89 percent) of massage therapists provide Swedish massage, followed by 85 percent who provide deep tissue massage, 56 percent trigger point, and 53 percent sports massage.

Massage Therapy as a Career

  • In 2012, the average annual income for a massage therapist (including tips) was estimated to be $20,789.6
  • While massage therapists work in a variety of work environments, sole practitioners account for the largest percentage of practicing therapists (69 percent). Sixty-five percent work at least part of their time at a client’s home/business/corporate setting, 39 percent at their office, 36 percent at their home, 27 percent in a health care setting, and 25 percent in a spa setting.5
  • Eighty-one percent of massage therapists started practicing massage therapy as a second career.5
  • Fifty-two percent of massage therapists say they would like to work more hours of massage than they presently do.5
  • Half of massage therapists (50 percent) also earn income working in another profession.5
  • Of those massage therapists who earn income working in another profession,12 percent practice other forms of bodywork, 10 percent work in other forms of health care, 7 percent teach/write/lecture and 5 percent do movement therapy.5

Education and Credentials in the Massage Therapy Profession

  • There are more than 350 accredited massage therapy schools and programs in the United States.8
  • Today there are nearly 80,000 nationally certified massage therapists and bodyworkers. To become nationally certified, a massage therapist must demonstrate mastery of core skills and knowledge, pass an exam, uphold the standards of practice and code of ethics of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and take part in continuing education.9
  • Massage therapists have an average of 632 hours of initial training.5
  • The vast majority of massage therapists (90 percent) have taken continuing education classes.5
    Massage therapists take an average of 24 hours of continuing education per year.5

State Regulation of the Massage Therapy Profession

  • Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapists or provide voluntary state certification.
  • In states that regulate massage therapy, massage therapists must meet the legal requirements to practice, which may include minimum hours of initial training and passing an exam.
  • In states that do not regulate massage therapy, this task may fall to local municipalities.
  • Most states that license massage therapists require a passing grade on the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) or one of two exams provided by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.
  • The American Massage Therapy Association and most other massage therapy organizations prefer the MBLEx, administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board (FSMTB), as a state licensing exam. However, AMTA supports the authority of regulatory boards to determine examination(s) appropriate for their state.
  • AMTA supports fair and consistent licensing of massage therapy in all states.

Who Gets Massage, Where and Why?

  • According to the 2012 AMTA consumer survey, an average of 16 percent of adult Americans received at least one massage between July 2011 and July 2012, and an average of 25 percent of adult Americans received a massage in the previous five years.6
  • In July 2012, 22 percent of women and 10 percent of men reported having a massage in the past twelve months.4
    Spas are where most people continue to receive massage, with 19 percent of those surveyed in July 2012 saying they had their last massage at a spa.4

The primary reason people received massage was for medical or health reasons.4

  • Forty-three percent of adult Americans who had a massage between July 2011 and July 2012 received it for medical or health reasons compared to 44 percent the previous year.
  • Of the people who had at least one massage in the last five years, 43 percent reported they did so for health conditions such as pain management, injury rehabilitation, migraine control, or overall wellness.
  • Eighty-nine (90) percent agree that massage can be effective in reducing pain.
  • Thirty-two percent of massage consumers had a massage for relaxation/stress reduction between July 2011 and July 2012.

Massage and Health Care

More Americans discussing massage with their doctors or health care providers.

  • In July 2012, more than thirty-four million American adults (16 percent) had discussed massage therapy with their doctors or health care providers in the previous year, compared to 15 percent the year before.4
  • Of those 16 percent who discussed massage with their doctor or healthcare provider, 50 percent of their doctors or health care providers strongly recommended massage therapy/encouraged them to get a massage, compared to 45 percent in 2011. While physicians led the way in recommending massage (61 percent vs. 52 percent in 2011), chiropractors (43 percent vs. 50 percent in 2011) and physical therapists (38 percent vs. 49 percent in 2011) also recommended massage therapy when their patients discussed it with them. Twenty-five percent of nurses recommended massage in 2012 versus 26 percent in 2011.4
  • More referrals come from chiropractic offices than other sources, with 13% of respondents reporting receiving referrals at least once per week, and another 24% receiving referrals several times per month. Fifty-one percent of massage therapists received at least one referral every 6 months or less from a hospital or medical office in 2012.

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

  • More than half of adult Americans (61 percent) would like to see their insurance cover massage therapy.4
    The vast majority of massage therapists (97 percent) believe massage therapy should be considered part of the health care field.5

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.11
  • Low back pain.12
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee.13
  • Reducing post-operative pain.14
  • Boosting the body’s immune system functioning.15
  • Decreasing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.16
  • Lowering blood pressure.17
  • Reducing headache frequency.18
  • Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.19
  • Decreasing pain in cancer patients.20

About AMTA

The American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®) is the largest non-profit, professional association serving more than 55,000 massage therapists, massage students and massage schools. The association is directed by volunteer leadership and fosters ongoing, direct member-involvement through its 51 chapters. AMTA works to advance the profession through ethics and standards, the promotion of fair and consistent licensing of massage therapists in all states, and public education on the benefits of massage.

The association also helps consumers and health care professionals locate professional massage therapists nationwide, through AMTA’s Find a Massage Therapist® national locator service. The free national locator service is available via AMTA’s website at AMTA’s Massage Therapy Tour is traveling the continental U.S. from July 2012 through 2014 to educate the public on the health benefits of massage therapy.

1 Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2004) National Health Expenditure Projections 2004-2014.Barnes P, Powell-Griner E, McFann K, Nahin R. CDC Advance Data Report #34.

2 Data compiled by American Massage Therapy Association 2012.

3 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook

4 2012 and 2011 AMTA Consumer Surveys

5 2012 AMTA Industry Survey

6 AMTA Consumer Surveys 2003-2012

7 Based on a comparison of results of an AMTA 2012 Industry Survey and 2006 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

8 American Massage Therapy Association

9 The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

10 National Survey conducted by the Health Forum/American Hospital Association 2007

11 Currin, J. Meister, E.A. (2008) A hospital-based intervention using massage to reduce distress among oncology patients. Cancer Nurs. 31(3):214-21.

12 Preyde M. (2003) Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Soft Tissue Manipulation, 8, 4 – 10.

13 Perlman AI, Sabina A, Williams AL, Njike VY, Katz DL. (2006) Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Arch Intern Med. 166(22):2533-8.

14 Piotrowski, M., Paterson, C., Mitchinson, A., Kim, H. M., Kirsh, M., Hinshaw, D. B. (2003) Massage as Adjuvant Therapy in the Management of Acute Postoperative Pain: A Preliminary Study in Men. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 197(6), 1037-1046.

15 Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., Bresee, C. (2010) A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(10), 1-10.

16 Field, T., Diego, Miguel, Cullen, Christy, Hartshorn, Kristin, Gruskin, Alan, Hernandez-Reif, Maria, Sunshine, William. (2004). Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened following massage. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 8:9-14.

17 Hernandez-Reif M, Field T, Krasnegor J, Theakston H, Hossain Z, Burman I (2000). High blood pressure and associated symptoms were reduced by massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 4, 31 – 38.

18 Quinn C, Chandler C, Moraska A. Massage Therapy & Frequency of Chronic Tension Headaches. (2002) American Journal of Public Health. 92(10):1657-61

19 Reader M, Young R, Connor JP. (2005) Massage therapy improves the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. J Altern Complement Med. 11(2):311-3. PMID: 15865498.

20 American College of Physicians. (2008) Massage Therapy May Have Immediate Positive Effect On Pain And Mood For Advanced Cancer Patients. Science Daily 16 September.

Released February 8, 2013

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