Massage Therapy as a Medical Treatment Option? It Should Be.

Many of us who have studied massage therapy know that massage comes in many forms and styles.  We also understand that the different types of massage can treat everything from mental/emotional conditions to physical ailments.  We respect how the various massage strokes, application of pressure, and knowledge of body physiology aid the therapist in providing relief to suffering clients.  But, even with the amount of research information available regarding massage therapy, the general public overlooks it as a powerful form of care for many health issues.

There is still a prevailing idea about massage therapy being no more than a relaxing rub down for the rich and well-to-do crowds.  In America, it is viewed largely as a luxury and much less often as a medically viable alternative to the current Western medical treatments available.  Massage therapy has been around for thousands of years and has permeated every culture and historical tradition known to man.  It is one of the very first forms of medical care.  Though today, massage has fallen to the favor of more glamorous treatments and therapies that are more “cutting-edge”, more “technologically advanced”, and “revolutionary”.

With such a vast and important role in the history of natural healthcare, why has massage therapy been overlooked as a primary medical care treatment option?  Let’s breakdown a few reasons:

1.  “Massage therapy” as a general term for bodywork…is, well, pretty vague.  It is easy for the average consumer to get lost in the world of massage therapy.  Massage therapy is a blanket term to loosely describe a form of body treatment using the laying on of hands.  We use the term massage therapy because the populous can recognize this term’s description of a technique with some physical manipulation of muscle and tissue along with the possible use of some oil or lubricating substance.  With the information available on the internet, the various styles of massage can be investigated more closely by just about anyone.  More descriptive subcategories of massage therapy (with names such as medical massage, relaxation massage, etc.) can help immensely with advertising and marketing of massage. It can more closely match the client to the style of massage that is beneficial for them.

2.  Not enough research confirming the benefits of massage.  Clinical trials, research studies, experimental treatments, must all continue to enhance the image of massage to the public.  There is always an imperative to continue learning about the many types of massage available to treat a wide array of medical conditions.  Massage therapists must be encouraged to do research as well as understand research studies.  Sharing articles and reports on massage research with friends, family, and clients will enlighten all persons involved.

3.  No time and/or money for massage.  This excuse shows that priorities are mixed up.  Health should be of utmost concern for everyone.  Poor health cannot support a busy lifestyle.  People will spend more time, effort, and money on keeping their car running optimally than their body.  The body needs upkeep and maintenance just like any other machine.  Taking care of oneself is a worthwhile investment and this takes more effort than the time it takes to fill a glass with water and swallow a pill.

4.  Doctors don’t prescribe massage.  In the current American health care system, massage is not seen as therapeutic as medication.  Massage is also considered by many Western medical personnel to be more of a maintenance/management treatment, rather than a therapeutic/healing treatment.  This is partly because of the lack of training and understanding by doctors.  But, also for some doctors, it is easier, and coincidentally more profitable to order patient x-rays, MRI’s, physical therapy, medication, and even surgery, than it is to send that patient out for massage.  Almost always, a massage plan can be a non-invasive, therapeutic adjunct to any physical pain treatment program.

5. Insurance companies don’t reimburse well for massage.  Most massage therapists don’t accept insurance.  Why?  Because, a massage therapist likely has to:  fill out lots of extra paperwork, limit the scope of their treatments according to what the insurance company dictates, fear extra litigation if proper procedures have not been followed correctly, continuously prove to insurance company that more massage treatments are necessary and beneficial.  Then, the massage therapist has to usually accept a heavily discounted reimbursement from the insurance company as payment for the “opportunity” to participate as a provider.  In short, it’s too much work and trouble for too little money.  Things could change if reimbursements to therapists were a bit higher, the scope of treatments were not so limited, and referrals were not necessary for insurance to cover massage treatments.

The idea of massage being a medical treatment option is one that should be shared by everyone.  It is every massage therapist’s duty to expound upon the benefits of massage, not only as a relaxing therapy, but also as a form of medicine.  Massage has little to no negative side effects, and can be used alongside most other forms of treatment and/or medications.  It should also be considered first when it comes to body aches and pain.  More education of massage therapists, other health practitioners, and clients is the key to widely improving the massage therapy profession, but overall health care in America as we know it.