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Massage News

Feed Courtesy of the American Massage Therapy Association


Congress Passes the NOPAIN Act
Thank you to our massage therapy community for your support!

AMTA is excited to share that Congress passed the NOPAIN Act in late December. The NOPAIN Act is a huge win for our massage therapy community, which aims to make a significant impact in helping prevent opioid addiction and saving lives throughout the country.

The passage of the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act (NOPAIN Act) is intended to increase patient and provider access to non-opioid approaches to pain management for those enrolled in Medicare and help stem the opioid epidemic across the nation. Supporting this legislation is part of AMTA's ongoing advocacy efforts at the federal and state levels to enact responsible policies that expand access to massage therapy.

The NOPAIN Act also requires a report to Congress on limitations and barriers to access in Medicare coverage for services supported by the HHS Pain Management Task Force, including massage therapy. For more information, view a one-pager on the NOPAIN Act or see the full bill.

“I’m pleased to see Congress pass this important legislation with the hope that it will make an impact as we work to increase access to massage therapy for pain,” said Michaele Colizza, AMTA National President. “Years of research support massage therapy as an important part of an integrative approach to care for chronic and acute pain.”

AMTA is proud to be part of the Voices for Non-Opioid Choices coalition and its efforts to help pass the NOPAIN Act. We want to thank our massage community for your advocacy and support in helping pass this crucial legislation, as we work to increase access to massage therapy for pain and broaden opportunities for massage therapists. Together, our collective voices made all of the difference!

To learn more about AMTA’s efforts on massage therapy for pain relief, you can explore these resources on our website. We remain dedicated to this important issue, as we continue to invest in research, advocacy, and promoting the benefits of massage for pain.

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The American Massage Therapy Association Reaches 100,000 Members
AMTA has achieved an exciting milestone. We are now a community of 100,000 members strong! This is the largest membership in AMTA’s history. What began as a small group of 29 like-minded, dedicated massage therapists in 1943, has transformed into the leading non-profit association for the profession. We are a welcoming and diverse group of people coming together for a unified purpose – to elevate our profession and to help people lead better lives through the power of massage therapy.

AMTA is focused on giving back to our members and the massage community. This is our mission, and we take it very seriously. We invest your membership dollars back into the profession through research, advocacy, self-care for the therapist, and by promoting the health and wellness benefits of massage.

“Thank you to our members, past, present and future. You are the heart of AMTA,” said AMTA National President, Michaele Colizza. “Together, we will continue to lead the way in advancing massage therapy and we look forward to the future of our profession.”

With your support, AMTA continues to collaborate with key partner organizations at the federal and state levels, to educate health care providers, insurance companies and patients on the benefits of massage therapy. This raises the profile of massage therapy as a non-pharmacological alternative to pain management, and creates new opportunities for massage therapists. AMTA gives back in other ways too – offering the strongest benefits in the profession and an extensive portfolio of free high-quality CE courses to help massage therapists enrich their skills and maintain thriving practices. In fact, AMTA has given over 950,000 free CE hours of continuing education to the profession since 2020 alone.

AMTA has reached this important milestone because of our members. Your loyalty and dedication have helped build AMTA into the non-profit association with the highest standards for the profession, and the largest membership of any massage therapy organization. As we look to the future, you can count on AMTA to continue to be your voice and your advocate, and to support you throughout your massage therapy career. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of the AMTA family.

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A Growing Body of Research Supports the Positive Impact of Massage Therapy for Mental Health
In a time when the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) ranks anxiety as the country’s most common mental illness – and depression as the leading cause of disability for people ages 15 to 441, people with mental health issues are turning to a range of wellness strategies, including massage therapy which has a positive impact on the body and mind. Explore recent research that supports the benefits of massage therapy for stress, anxiety and depression.

Studies on Massage for Stress and Anxiety

A recent study by German researchers indicated that short-term interventions such as massage therapy can robustly reduce stress on a psychological and physiological level by boosting the body’s principal engine for relaxation – the parasympathetic nervous system. In the study, researchers measured how massage can affect heart rate variability. When the parasympathetic nervous system is active, during rest and relaxation, the heart rate variability is high. The researchers found that just 10 minutes of massage created “significant increases” in heart rate variability.2

Another 2021 Mayo Clinic study showed positive results on the benefits of massage therapy for anxiety in preoperative surgical patients. After receiving a 15-minute non-therapeutic hand massage, patients experienced lower anxiety levels and increased satisfaction.3

New Research on Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain and Depression

Research also indicates that massage can improve mood and reduce depression in those living with chronic pain. In fact, a scientific journal “Brain Sciences” recently covered a 2020 trial on women with chronic back pain whose depressive symptoms and negative body image were significantly reduced after receiving slow, superficial strokes along the back, neck and dorsal limbs.4

In addition, a recent Australian pilot study examined the feasibility and acceptability of partner-delivered relaxation massage, and whether massage can reduce symptoms of prenatal anxiety, stress and depression. The results showed that massage therapy was linked to a large reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms and a moderate reduction of stress. Pregnant women who received massage therapy reported a positive benefit from massage of 78 mm (range 29 – 100) on a 100 mm visual analog scale.5

Massage For Youth Struggling with Mental Health Issues  

Mental health issues are on the rise for children in the U.S. Many recent studies point to the benefits of using massage in addressing a range of psychological issues in youth, such as attention disorders, aggression, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a 2019 study on eating disorders and depression, researchers found that excessively low-dopamine levels were increased following one month of daily 20-minute massages.6

Another 2019 study compared the effectiveness of soft tissue manipulation and a relaxation technique (Jacobson’s progressive relaxation) in reducing anxiety levels in young adults. The researchers found that the level of perceived anxiety decreased “significantly” in the group receiving soft tissue manipulation.7

“Research on the efficacy of massage therapy for mental health continues to show great promise,” says Michaele Colizza, AMTA National President.  “In fact, more and more consumers are turning to massage therapy as part of an integrative approach to care for improving mental health and well-being.”

It’s an Important Moment in Time for Massage for Mental Health

Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a marked effect on the country’s mental health. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 42% of people surveyed reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. Researchers are concerned that the increase in mental health issues could linger long after the pandemic has subsided, and many integrative health experts believe that massage therapy can be an important part of the solution in helping alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.8

Research Citations

[1] Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA): Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

[2] University of Konstanz. “Ten minutes of massage or rest will help your body fight stress.” ScienceDaily. September 2020. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200918104305.htm.

[3] Zghihong, Bauer, Aaberg, Pool, Van Rooy, Schroeder, Finney. “Benefits of hand massage on anxiety in preoperative outpatient: A quasi-experimental study with pre- and post-tests.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32919894/

[4] Effect of Psycho-Regulatory Massage Therapy on Pain and Depression in Women with Chronic and/or Somatoform Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial - PubMed (nih.gov)

[5]Hall HL, Munk NK, Carr BH, Fogarty SR, Cant RB, Holton SR, Weller CL, Lauche RM. Maternal mental health and partner-delivered massage: A pilot study. Women Birth. 2021 May;34(3):e237-47.

[6] Tiffany Field. "Pediatric massage therapy research: A narrative review." Children (Basel) 2019 Jun; 6(6): 78.

[7] Wilczynska, Lysak-Radomska, Podczarska-Glowacka, Jolanta Zajt, Dornowski, Skonieczny "Evaluation of the effectiveness of relaxation in lowering the level of anxiety in young adults." Int J Occup Med Environ Health2019;32(6):817-824. 

[8] Vahration, Blumberg, Terlizzi, Schiller. “Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Use of Mental Health Care Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic” – United States, August 2020-February 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:490-494. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7013e2.htm?s_cid=mm7013e2_w

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CARA 3.0: AMTA-Supported Bill
Legislation addressing comprehensive approaches to pain care introduced in Congress. 

AMTA is pleased to announce that a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators recently introduced S. 987, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA 3.0) to increase funding authorization levels for certain programs passed as part of the CARA bill in 2016, and to build upon earlier efforts to help address the rising opioid epidemic through enhanced access to treatment and prevention.

CARA 3.0 is a comprehensive approach to tackling issues related to chronic and acute pain and substance abuse. AMTA has long supported this comprehensive approach, and we believe that access to massage therapy as part of an overall treatment plan for pain-related conditions can help reduce the over-reliance on opioids that leads to abuse and addiction. This legislation is needed more than ever; COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for individuals who need access to complementary and integrative therapies to help manage their pain.

CARA 3.0 includes several provisions of interest to massage therapists and other integrative providers, including new research into non-opioid pain management alternatives and increasing continuing education for physicians and providers. The bill also contains specific AMTA-supported language from the NOPAIN Act that requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress on identified gaps in Medicare coverage for pain, including massage therapy, and to make recommendations to increase patient access to these therapies.

AMTA applauds the introduction of S. 987, CARA 3.0 by leaders: Senators Portman (R-OH), Whitehouse (D-RI), Capito (R-WV), Klobuchar (D-MN), Cantwell (D-WA),  and Shaheen (D-NH). For more information on how massage therapists can get involved in supporting this legislation, you can visit our page on AMTA's efforts to advance the conversation about massage for pain.

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HHS FY 2022 Labor Bill & Draft Report
This bill and draft report include language and funding to support several areas of interest to the massage therapy profession. 

On July 29, the House of Representatives approved the FY 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (“Labor HHS”) funding bill with a vote of 219-208. The bill passed as part of a larger package of 7 of the annual 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal government for the fiscal year starting October 1. 

The Labor HHS bill is one of the annual funding bills that Congress must pass each fiscal year in order to keep the federal government in operation. This bill provides the annual level of funding for public health and research entities including the NIH and CDC.

AMTA will continue to monitor and update the status of the FY 2022 Labor HHS Appropriations efforts in Congress. It is important to keep in mind that both the House and Senate must act and come to an agreement on the parameters of a final funding bill.

Labor HHS Draft Bill & Report (HRept 117-96)

Earlier in July, the Appropriations Labor HHS Subcommittee released its draft bill and the accompanying report (HRept 117-96) for the FY 2022 bill. The report serves as a summary of areas where Congress has strong interests and is encouraging a federal agency to take specific actions.

The bill (as approved by House Appropriations) contains significant funding increases over the FY 2021 amounts for most public health efforts, including over $600 million in combined funding for opioids, stimulants, and pain research. Many individual institutes have designated dollars that would be allocated for pain and opioid research.

AMTA’s Public Statement to the Appropriations Committee

AMTA submitted a written public statement to the Appropriations Committee in May supporting the inclusion of specific elements of the FY 2022 bill. We believe this will help advance education about massage therapy and the use of it to help address pain management issues.  

We also continued our efforts to work with other national organizations in the pain/opioid abuse community to highlight specific needs for more massage therapy research, as well as additional federal actions needed to promote the use of massage therapy and other integrative therapies.

The House Report contains the following AMTA-supported initiatives:

  • Directing the HHS to launch a public awareness campaign with the DoD and VA on evidence-based non-opioid treatment options that are included in the 2019 HHS Pain Management Task Force; the HHS Task Force specifically supports massage therapy in various sections throughout the report.
  • The Committee also directs HHS to widely distribute the HHS Task Force report to health care providers in order to increase awareness on acute and chronic pain, and the availability of non-opioid pain approaches, including massage therapy. 
  • The report also advises the CDC to conduct extensive population data research on pain and the treatment options that exist, as well as the direct and indirect costs associated with pain.

Areas of Interest for Massage Therapists 

HHS: Pain Management Initiatives

As recommended in the CARA-mandated HHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force report, the Committee urges the HHS to coordinate with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the VA to launch a public awareness campaign to educate Americans on the difference between acute and chronic pain and the available evidence-based non-opioid treatment options.

The Committee also encourages an update of relevant pain management policies and educational tools and has requested that the HHS widely distribute the report’s recommendations which include the importance of individualized, multidisciplinary, patient-centered care for the treatment of pain.

CDC: Opioid Abuse and Overdose Prevention 

The Committee includes an increase of $187,790,000 earmarked for the CDC to fund opioid and stimulant abuse and overdose prevention in communities. In addition, the Committee directs the CDC to report on the results of these investments in local cities, counties, and communities to ensure that traditionally underrepresented populations receive equitable access to funds in the fiscal year 2023 Congressional Budget Justification.

The Committee also directs the CDC to publish population research data using questions from the National Health Interview Survey and other national population-based samples to describe those with chronic pain by patient age, comorbidities, the part of body affected, socio-economic status, geographic location by state, county and city, payor source, race, and gender.

Integrative and Complementary Health Care Research

The Committee supports the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)’s continued leadership of several trans-NIH and inter-agency initiatives, including the NIH–DoD–VA Pain Management Collaboratory (PMC) and the Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory, both of which are investigating best practices for implementing complementary health approaches in clinical health care settings. Consistent with goals that the NCCIH identified in its fiscal year 2021–2025 strategic plan, the Center is encouraged to maintain its focus on promoting research on multimodal approaches in treating pain and improving individual health.

The Committee includes an increase of $26,000,000 for the NCCIH to support research related to pain and pain management, as requested in the fiscal year 2022 budget.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS): Headache Disorders 

Migraines are a leading cause of disability, affecting more than 17 percent of people in the U.S. The Committee encourages the National Institute of Health (NIH) to consider the HEAL Initiative's support of fundamental, translational, clinical, and social science research on headache disorders to help provide lasting scientific solutions to the opioid crisis. Headache disorders research supported through the HEAL Initiative should supplement, not replace, current funding for headache disorders research at NIH, which has contributed to many of the effective non-opioid treatments for headaches.

AMTA will continue to monitor and update our members on the status of the FY 2022 Labor HHS Appropriations efforts in Congress. For more information on how massage therapists can get involved in supporting this legislation, you can visit our page on AMTA's efforts to advance the conversation about massage for pain.

View the Committee Report.

Read the full Bill.

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