2013 Position Statements, Massage and Health

Published: August 31, 2013

In a previous blog, Greg Hurd explained Why Position Statements Matter. Here Delegates Lisa Curran Parenteau anf Regine Ryder 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.

The Proposed Statement
It is the position of AMTA that massage therapy can improve health through its effects on the physical, mental and social well-being of an individual. You can read the full text here.

The author refers in this statement to the definition of health by the World Health Organization (WHO):

‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

The question asked by us is: Is there enough scientific evidence that massage therapy has these positive effects on health in all its parts as defined by the WHO?

The first two references refer to stress in the US mainly in connection with obesity and with its effect on children of parents who are stressed. You could say that these show that many people are stressed, so they could need MT in order to help them be able to relax more and have a better body image. There is however only one preliminary study that shows that body image could improve through MT.

Of the many studies cited, only a few seem actually related to health. We analyzed the research using the metrics below:

QoL = Quality of Life
Prel. = Preliminary
Wp. = Workplace
Physical: 14 QoL, constipation, 30 post OP, 22 sleep, fatigue, 21 biological eff. Young,
18 workplace reduction blood pressure, 34 prehyp., 23 cancer, 17 seniors, 19 nurses wp, relax.,37 wp bp
Mental: 7 Meta , 36 Body Image, 24 Meta on depression, 19, relaxation,
Social: 26 HIV kids, 17 seniors,

There are also several studies that use a special kind of massage. This always presents the possible confusion between different types of bodywork and massage.

Finally, many of the studies presented are preliminary or pilot studies and close to 20% of the studies are older than 10 years (7 of the 40)


We do not feel that this Position Statement as currently written should be accepted. In future, we suggest that the author divide the three parts of well-being as defined by the WHO into three position statements. While we are pretty convinced from our experiences that massage does in fact improve well-being, this statement does not present enough scientific evidence to convince the medical community

Health seems to be too broad a subject. Once all three parts (physical, mental, social well-being) are confirmed through position statements, the AMTA could generate a general statement on health.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net