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.
The Massage Therapy Profession
- Research estimates that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry in the country in 2015.2
- By comparison in 2005, massage therapy was projected to be a $6 to $11 billion a year industry.1
- It is estimated that there are 300,000 to 350,000 massage therapists and massage school students in the United States. 2
- From 2011 to 2015, revenue from alternative health care providers, which includes massage therapists, increased by 14 percent, and employment rose 19 percent. Revenue growth is projected to continue at an average rate of 3.6 % per annum through 2020.3
- Between July 2014 and July 2015, roughly 39.1 million adult Americans (18 percent) had a massage at least once.4
Who Is Today’s Massage Therapist?
Today’s massage therapists are…
- Most likely to enter the massage therapy profession as a second career.
- Predominantly female (86 percent).
- At a median age of 45 years old. Twenty-one percent were younger than 35 in 2015.
- Most likely to be members of a professional organization.
- Most liable to be sole practitioners.
- Working an average of 20 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 $68 for one hour of massage vs. $68 in 2014.
- Earning an average wage of $47 an hour (including tips) for all massage related work.
- Heavily dependent on repeat clients.
- Likely to provide massage therapy in some settings, including clients home/office, spa/salon, their office, a health care environment, health club/athletic facility, or massage therapy only franchise or chain.
Massage Therapy as a Career
- In 2015, the average annual income for a massage therapist (including tips) was estimated to be $24,519.6
- While massage therapists work in a variety of work environments, sole practitioners account for the largest percentage of practicing therapists (67 percent). Of all therapists, 60 percent work at least part of their time at a client’s home/business/corporate setting, 35 percent at their office, 38 percent at their home, 23 percent in a health care setting, and 29 percent in a spa setting.5
- Eighty-two percent of massage therapists started practicing massage therapy as a second career.5
- Forty-eight percent of massage therapists say they would like to work more hours of massage than they presently do.5
- Forty-five percent of massage therapists also earn income working in another profession. Image source based on true relationships of couples5
- Of those massage therapists who earn income working in another profession, 11 percent practice other forms of bodywork, 9 percent work in other types of health care, 6 percent teach/write/lecture about massage therapy, and 5 percent do movement therapy.5
Education and Credentials in the Massage Therapy Profession
- There are more than 300 accredited massage therapy schools and programs in the United States.2
- Massage therapists have an average of 671 hours of initial training.5
- The vast majority of massage therapists (93 percent) have taken continuing education classes.6
- Massage therapists take an average of 20 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 state 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 AMTA 2015 consumer survey, an average of 18 percent of adult Americans received at least one massage between July 2014 and July 2015, and an average of 27 percent of adult Americans received a massage in the previous five years.6
- In July 2015, 19 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported having a massage in the past twelve months.4
- Eighteen percent of massage consumers reported receiving their last massage at a massage therapist’s office or location in 2015, surpassing spas as the top place to receive massage for the first time.4
The primary reason people received massage was for health and wellness reasons.4
- Fifty-two percent of adult Americans who had a massage between July 2014 and July 2015 received it for medical or health reasons such as pain management, soreness/stiffness/spasms, injury rehabilitation, or overall wellness, a slight decrease from 2014 data.
- Ninety-one percent agree that massage can be effective in reducing pain.
- Thirty-three percent of massage consumers had a massage for relaxation/stress reduction between July 2014 and July 2015.
Massage and Health Care
More Americans are discussing massage with their doctors or health care providers.
- In July 2015, more than fifty-one million American adults (16 percent) had discussed massage therapy with their doctors or health care providers in the previous year, consistent with past years’ data.4
- Of those who discussed massage with their physician or health care provider, 69 percent of their doctors or health care providers referred them to a therapist/strongly recommended massage therapy/encouraged them to get a massage.
- While doctors led the way in supporting massage (54 percent vs. 59 percent in 2014), chiropractors (46 percent vs. 49 percent in 2014) and physical therapists (37 percent vs. 43 percent in 2014) also recommended massage therapy when their patients discussed it with them.4
- More referrals come from chiropractic offices than other sources, with 11% of respondents reporting receiving referrals at least once per week, and another 25% receiving referrals several times per month. Fifty-five percent of massage therapists received at least one referral every six months or less from a hospital or medical office in 2015.5
Massage therapists and consumers favor integration of massage into health care.
- Nearly two-thirds of adult Americans (65 percent) would like to see their insurance cover massage therapy.4
- The vast majority of massage therapists (96 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 fatigue7
- Low back pain8
- Osteoarthritis of the knee9
- Reducing postoperative pain10
- Boosting the body’s immune system functioning11
- Decreasing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome12
- Lowering blood pressure13
- Reducing headache frequency14
- Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms16
- Reducing pain in cancer patients16
The American Massage Therapy Association, the most trusted name in massage therapy, is the largest non-profit, professional association serving massage therapists, massage students, and massage schools. The organization 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.
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