2012 Position Statements, Massage and Public Health

Published: September 12, 2012

Recently head delegate Greg Hurd explained Why Position Statements Matter. Here Delegate Allissa Haines examines one position statement being brought to the House of Delegates at the National Convention in October. We encourage your comments and thoughts below this post!

It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that creating public health initiatives which promote massage therapy for health and wellness would benefit the public. You can read the full text here.

I'm going to evaluate this statement a little differently from the others because, well, I think it's a different kind of statement. Rather than isolate a particular pathology and assert efficacy of massage as a treatment, this statement advocates for the inclusion of massage in broader context (public health initiatives).

I think it's valuable to look at the background behind the statement. The author states, "The field of public health has been changing over the last several years. In the past, public health simply looked at disease prevention and public safety issues. Now, however, public health is focused more on the wellness and quality of life of our people, cities, states and Nations.1 The rising cost of healthcare and our aging population necessitates that we look at all aspects of healthcare and its efficacy. 2, 3 It is now understood that health seems to flow on a continuum with disease on the far side, average health in the middle, and true wellness on the other end."

The author goes on to illustrate the connections between health issues plaguing the population and choices and behaviors regarding diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits.

"Public health initiatives are already in place for exercise and nutrition; massage therapy should also be included as it is a cost effective and non-medicinal way to manage stress, pain, mood issues, improve immune function, improve quality of life and may help people make better choices. If public health policy makers started to include massage therapy in their initiatives we may begin to see a swing toward the wellness side of the continuum for our people, cites, states and nation."

There are 42 references cited. The first nine back up statements made about public health. The remainder are specific to the effects of massage for particular health issues like anxiety, pain from a variety of sources (cancer, burns), low back pain, cerebral palsy and many more.

I like this position statement. I like its effort (as I see it) to bring massage into the general population for overall wellness, and the scope of the references and data to assert the efficacy of skilled touch. Further, I appreciate the education aspects inherent in public health initiatives. Is massage the best treatment for every ailment? No, of course not. Could greater public knowledge, education and use of massage be beneficial to the public? Yes.

I look forward to conversation and debate. I expect to vote 'yes' on this statement, but of course that could change during debate. What do you think?