2013 Position Statements, Massage for Anxiety

Published: August 8, 2013

In a previous blog, Greg Hurd explained Why Position Statements Matter. Here Delegates Kelly Dalbec & Gail Dobinski examine 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 the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage therapy can assist in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. You can read the full text here.

The Position Statement was well written by the originators, and they are well known for writing numerous other Statements throughout the years. Their experience is evident and apparent by the amount of references and research provided for consideration.

The background information provided in the Statement is clear and concise, beginning with a staggering statistic:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 40 million adult Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety and its disorders shape the quality of life and the health of those individuals affected.

Research indicates that massage can reduce anxiety in numerous populations, some which include:

  • psychiatric patients
  • patients with chronic pain
  • children with illnessess
  • nurses
  • end of life
  • heart related conditions
  • patients with generalized anxiety disorders
  • the elderly population

Additional populations were also listed, but these seem to be the predominant ones that are spoken to.

Their rationale is also well written. Again, providing an extensive list of populations where MT has made an effective and marked improvement in these groups.

This statement provides 40 different reference that relate to the Position Statement. The vast majority of these references are in support of the Statement.

One in particular, is an extremely strong to the Statement, Reference #16 Many Position Statements have a list of references that are based on small studies. This particular Reference is based on a meta-analysis of MT research, which is the highest level of research available. In this specific meta-analysis, Dr. Christopher Moyer, showed that reductions of trait anxiety and depression were MT’s largest effects, with a course of treatment providing benefits similar in magnitude to those of psychotherapy. It also showed that there can be a reduction of trait anxiety with even just one single application of massage therapy. This meta-analysis greatly supports the Position Statement.

Some of the References with smaller studies and a lower number of participants showed better scoring results. When all these studies are put together, it gives a larger number of people who benefited from massage, which again is positive support of the Statement.

There were only a few references that we feel do not give strong support to the Statement.

There were several styles of massage listed, such as but not limited to:

  • Swedish
  • foot massage
  • hand massage
  • Shiatsu
  • Aromatherapy

There may be questions as to the label of some of the methods. For example, Reference 19 refers to “manual therapy” but it is not clear what that is. Others simple stated “massage therapy”; so it is unclear as to what the intent of the Reference is speaking to.

The majority of the studies showed positive outcomes and scoring results for the participants or patients that received massage due to their anxiety or anxiety related conditions.


This Position Statement clearly speaks to how MT can assist in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. This is a straightforward statement which has many supporting references for both the psychological and physiological aspects of anxiety, and addresses all populations and age groups. In conclusion, we are impressed with the amount of studies and statistics that were found in support of massage reducing the symptoms of anxiety in a number of different populations and clinical communities.. We are in support of this Position Statement.

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