What does the future hold for massage therapy professionals?

In 2008, Whitney Lowe, a recognized authority on pain and injury treatment with massage therapy, looked at the future of massage in a piece that ran in the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) Massage and Bodywork magazine.  Among industry trends and opportunities, Lowe wrote of the division that had emerged in the profession over the previous few decades between massage for health care versus personal service.  The division affected education, licensure, and professional advancement

Although the boundaries between the two styles are sometimes blurry and some practitioners often practice both, Lowe noted that an increasing number of therapists were choosing to identify with one or the other.  Either they offered treatment for specific pain, injury, palliative care, or other ailment or they provided personal care massage for wellness enhancement, general relaxation, and to feel good. Whitney cited medical spas as an area where the two styles of massage converged.[1]

The good news was a positive outlook for massage therapists in all areas. Lowe pointed to both the increased use and acceptance of massage as a viable and valuable healthcare modality and the growing demand for personal care massage therapy.[2]

Massage for healthcare grows

Since 2012, the massage therapy industry has experienced year-over-year growth to reach nearly 17 billion dollars in 2019. Despite experiencing a slight dip in 2020, most likely due to COVID, the market has shown signs of recovery in the last two years. [3]

According to 2021 market data from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)[4]

  • Over half of all massage consumers got their last massage for health and wellness reasons.
  • Nearly half of consumers got a massage in 2021 for relaxation for stress reduction
  • In 2021, 63 percent of consumers who got a massage for health and wellness reasons stated it was part of a treatment plan from a doctor or medical provider.

The findings indicate that consumers increasingly seek massage therapy to boost their overall health and wellness, which can be anything from stress reduction to treatment for a medical condition, such as chronic pain, repetitive strain injury, migraine headache or osteoarthritis and even cancer recovery. In fact, today, there are about 25 states that license massage therapists as healthcare providers. [5] Even the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, calls massage a professional health care discipline.[6]

Pampering still “on the table”

When it comes to “pampering,” AMTA found that just 16 percent of consumers list pampering as the primary reason for their last massage, and 30 percent of consumers reported that they received a massage for pampering in the last year.[7] Still among the reasons for getting a massage, pampering is among the top five, writes Massagetique, an online directory of massage providers. [8]

As you begin your career or are thinking of next steps, you can choose where you want to be on the spectrum of client health and wellbeing. Whether you choose personal care to aid relaxation or specialize in massage for one or more specific medical conditions, the demand for your services will continue to grow.


[1] Lowe, Whitney, “The Future of Massage, Massage Therapy.com, Accessed September 3, 2022. https://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/future-massage

[2] IBID

[3] Gough, Christina, “U.S. Massage Service Industry Market Size 2012-2022,” Statista, July 5, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1176200/massage-service-industry-market-size-us/

[4] Massage Therapy Industry Factsheet,” AMTA, Accessed September 3, 2022. https://www.amtamassage.org/publications/massage-industry-fact-sheet/

[5] Onofro, Julie, “Massage therapists as healthcare providers,” Massage Practice Builder, August 5, 2020. https://www.massagepracticebuilder.com/massage-therapists-as-healthcare-providers/

[6] “Massage Therapy,” U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Accessed September 4, 2022. https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/professional-resources/Massage_Therapy.asp

[7] Massage Industry Factsheet

[8] Neely, Joe, “Top 5 Reasons People Get a Masssage,” Massagetiqe, Accessed September 4, 2022. https://www.massagetique.com/blog/health-wellness/top-5-reasons-people-get-a-massage/