Mr. Michael Kennealy, Secretary
Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
One Ashburton Place, Room 2101
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Dear Secretary Kennealy:
On behalf of the approximately 3,000 members of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (“AMTA-MA”), I write in the event it becomes necessary to further reconsider the phased opening of the Massachusetts economy. In particular, the AMTA-MA respectfully urges you to recognize that massage therapy, which represents a significant number of small business owners, provides a large number of health benefits to its recipients. Accordingly, a reasonable path forward for the massage therapy profession – one that reduces the risk for both practitioners and their clients – should still exist in the event it is necessary to further roll back the Commonwealth’s economy.
As you know, Massachusetts massage therapists are licensed practitioners who provide therapeutic massage services to enhance the health and healing of the body’s soft tissues. Currently, there are over 12,000 licensed massage therapists and over 1,000 licensed massage therapy establishments in the Commonwealth. One of the fastest growing health care professions, massage therapy is increasingly viewed as part of integrative health care.
In particular, evidence continues to build, showing massage therapy as effective treatment of many common health complaints, including, but not limited to, anxiety and depression, post-operative recovery, headache, neck and shoulder pain, low back pain, athletic injury and post-exercise recovery. A study looking at the role of massage therapy in pain management found that “massage therapy may be beneficial, with minimal safety concerns, for treating various pain and function-related outcomes in pain populations.” A study looking specifically at massage therapy and the treatment of shoulder pain found “[t]he effect size estimate showed that massage therapy had a significant effect on reducing shoulder pain for short-term efficacy.” In short, while not a panacea massage therapy continues to demonstrate its value within health care.
With that in mind, there has been widespread concern that people are not seeking services that provide health benefits. As a result, many individuals throughout the state are seeing their conditions worsen. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found, “an estimated 41% of US adults had delayed or avoided medical care, including urgent or emergency care (12%) and routine care (32%).” In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker and EOHHS Secretary Marylou Sudders urged residents to keep appointments and seek medical attention as necessary. While massage therapy services are certainly not emergency medical care, these services are a part of many Massachusetts residents’ health care regimen. Whether used to assist in the management of anxiety, chronic pain, addiction or any other number of ailments, massage therapy has a role in today’s integrated health care world – one that needs to remain available to residents of the Commonwealth.
The massage therapy profession, which has been focused on hygiene and public health, well before our statewide licensure in 2006, continues to work to protect practitioners and clients alike. Through a close adherence to the Commonwealth’s guidelines for “close contact personal services”, guidance issued by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as standard best management practices that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic, the massage therapy profession has remained focused on prevention and the safe provision of services. As such, we look forward to the opportunity of working with your agency to ensure that the massage therapy profession remains open to support the needs of practitioners and clients while balancing the overarching concerns for public health in light of COVID-19.
I appreciate your consideration of this important matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Secretary Marylou Sudders, MSW
Executive Office of Health and Human Services