Throughout 2020 MASSAGE Magazine has celebrated our 35th anniversary, and this timeline of health, policy and massage events from 1985 to 2020 is part of that celebration.

From our first issue in 1985, MASSAGE Magazine has brought you news, advice and coverage of events to help you succeed as a health care practitioner and small-business owner.

Thank you for being part of MASSAGE Magazine’s story, whether this is your first year with us, or your 35th.


MASSAGE Magazine was launched from a home in Kealakekua, Hawaii, by Robert Noah Calvert (1946–2006), a former massage therapist and massage-school owner; his wife, Judi, a massage therapist; and a team of 12 volunteers.

John E. Upledger, DOO, OMM (1932–2012), opens the Upledger Institute (now Upledger Institute International), focused on teaching CranioSacral Therapy and other gentle manual therapies.


The first commercially produced massage chair, created by David Palmer and sold by Living Earth Crafts, is introduced.


The First Annual Holistic and Western Medicine AIDS Conference: AIDS, Medicine and Miracles educates attendees about the benefits of massage for HIV/AIDS patients, marking a departure from the fear many people have of those carrying the virus.


“Business Mastery,” by Cherie-Sohnen-Moe, the first business book written specifically for health-and-wellness professionals, is published.


The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern California inspires James “Jim” Charlesworth to mobilize the first team of massage therapists to work on emergency personnel and volunteers, opening the door to massage therapists to respond to hurricanes, floods, fires and other disasters with massage for first responders.


The Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) is signed into being by the Secretary of the State of Illinois, for charitable, scientific and educational purposes related to massage therapy research and community outreach initiatives.


The U.S. Congress passes legislation that provides $2 million in funding for fiscal year 1992 to establish the Office of Alternative Medicine within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate and evaluate unconventional medical practices.


Tiffany Field, PhD, founds the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at Miami University School of Medicine, with a startup grant from Johnson & Johnson. TRI goes on to conduct research that shows massage helps premature infants thrive, among many other studies.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) is established; it offers its national certification from 1992 until 2013.


The study, Unconventional Medicine in the United States—Prevalence, Cost, and Patterns of Use, by David Eisenberg, MD, shows that Americans spend more than $10 billion out of pocket on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Its publication opens a floodgate of interest in CAM from the press, the public and the medical field.


The Doyle Group begins publishing Chiropractic Economics magazine.

Aromatherapy is in the public eye, with the publication of “Essential oils in aromatherapy: A systematic review” and the book “Holistic Aromatherapy.”

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed, and massage therapists work alongside chiropractors and other health care providers on emergency response workers at the Myriad Convention Center.


Massage therapy is provided to athletes in an official capacity at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. This helps open up the use of techniques like sports and orthopedic massage, and cryotherapy; it also creates opportunities for massage therapists to be employed by professional sports teams.

HIPAA—the Healthcare Portability and Accountability Act—is signed into law and is seen as the start of the modernization of information flow within the health care industry.


The Florida Chiropractic Association initiates its LMT of the Year award to honor massage therapists who perform outstanding service to the massage and chiropractic professions in Florida and in their communities.

Kinesio Taping Theory, developed by Kenzo Kase of Kinesio Tape, is used by seven Major League Baseball teams, helping usher in tape use in massage sessions and the launch of brands including KT Tape, Spidertape, TheraBand and ROCKTAPE.


Congress authorizes making the Office of Alternative Medicine into an independent NIH center, renamed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).


The first BlackBerry mobile device is released, three years after AOL offers the first monthly dial-up plan and eight years before Apple produces its smartphone, ushering in the modern internet era—and setting the stage for apps, virtual massage conferences and online massage CEs.


President Clinton creates the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, which went on to provide recommendations about research, education and training in CAM; delivery of CAM practices; and coverage and reimbursement for CAM services.


In response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, massage therapists travel to New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, to provide massage to firefighters, search-and-rescue teams, police officers and other first responders.

NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine launch “CAM on PubMed,” a tool for searching the scientific literature for information on complementary health approaches. 


Massage Envy (PRNewsfoto/Massage Envy)

Massage Envy Franchising LLC is established; franchising begins in 2003. (The company now employs more than 25,000 massage therapists and estheticians.) Franchises Elements Massage, Massage Heights, Hand and Stone, LaVida and others have since opened hundreds of locations in the U.S. and Canada.


The first two of NCCAM’s Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM are funded to increase scientific rigor in research on CAM, particularly focused on action mechanisms.


A new national survey shows that 36% of U.S. adults use CAM—including massage (5%), yoga (5%) and chiropractic (8%). Fifty-five percent of respondents say they use CAM because they believe that it helps them when combined with conventional medical treatments; 13% use CAM because they feel conventional medicine is too expensive.

The report Pain: Psychological Perspectives is published in the US and UK, reflecting the growing focus on the biopsychosocial aspects of pain and pain relief.


The Doyle Group acquires and begins publishing MASSAGE Magazine, taking the magazine from six to 12 issues per year, relocating from Spokane, Washington, to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and creating such special issues as Self-Care, New Practitioner, Medical Massage, Clients, and the Buyers Guide.

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ (FSMTB) first meeting is attended by 22 states and the District of Columbia; bylaws are adopted and the first board elected. FSMTB goes on to develop the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx).


The first inductees into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame are named: Frederick Alexander, Robert Noah Calvert, Sister Rosalind Gefre, Ruthie Hardee, Hippocrates, Eunice Ingham, George Kousaleos, Aunty Margaret Machado, Jack Meagher, Bonnie Prudden, Ida Rolf and Milton Trager. Since then, hundreds of massage professionals have been inducted for their contributions to the field.

BIOTONE massage-and-spa products company donates $10,000 to support two MTF research and community service projects, one of several donations the company has made over many years to further massage therapy research and outreach.


The First International Fascia Research Congress is held in Boston, bringing together researchers and practicing health care professionals with a common focus on connective tissue.


The Society for Oncology Massage is established as a nonprofit, with one of its goals being to educate the medical community, people diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers about massage therapy.


The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) is founded, and goes on to develop its core competencies to set the foundational knowledge, skills and attitudes that massage educators should possess, and its Educator Certification Program.


MASSAGE Magazine announces its new liability insurance coverage for massage therapists, Massage Magazine Insurance Plus, introducing comprehensive coverage at a low price to the massage field.


The first baby boomer turns 65, heralding a new age of massage for seniors who have the knowledge and income to make healthy touch part of their self-care while aging.


The first massage app, Zeel, launches, and is followed quickly by Soothe, Breathe, Matago and more, to answer consumers’ calls for massage services on demand.


The NCBTMB replaces National Certification with a Board Certification credential.


Congress renames NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIM), reflecting a growing awareness of the efficacy of combining therapies in an overall care plan.


The report “Primary reason for receiving a massage in the U.S. 2015” is conducted by Statista Research & Analysis, the analytical unit of one of the world’s largest statistics portals. Fifty-two percent of consumers say they received their most recent massage for medical reasons; 33% say they did so for relaxation or stress relief; and 19% report receiving their most recent massage for pain relief or pain management.


U.S. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps sports massage-cupping rings on his back at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, bringing worldwide attention to cupping.

The NCBTMB announces its new Specialty Certificate program and goes on to create certificates in oncology massage, sports massage, orthopedic massage and others.

A meta-analysis of massage therapy for pain examines the impact of massage on function in three types of pain populations: 1) populations who would typically visit their general health care practitioner with complaints of pain; 2) patients undergoing or recovering from surgical/operative procedures; and 3) cancer patients. The reviews run online in the journal Pain Medicine, published by Oxford University Press.


The Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health’s (ACIH) Hospital Based Massage Therapy Task Force releases its Hospital Based Massage Therapy (HBMT) Competencies for Optimal Practice in Integrated Environments, providing guidelines for massage therapists working in hospitals and other medical locales.

The FSMTB publishes its Human Trafficking Task Force Report, highlighting the negative impact trafficking has on the massage field and offering ideas to meet the challenge.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration (VHA) releases its directive on Provision of Complementary and Integrative Health, representing a significant change in how care is to be delivered across the VHA system.


MASSAGE Magazine launches its All Star Program to highlight the techniques and business education of experienced instructors, with the program continuing into 2021 and beyond. (Read essays from our current All Stars here.)

The Farm Bill is signed into law, legalizing industrial hemp, the crop from which cannabidiol (CBD) is derived. CBD topicals, including those from brands like BIOTONE, Sombra and CBD Clinic, grow in use among massage therapists.


The opioid epidemic coupled with Americans’ rates of chronic pain leads the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, a federal advisory committee, to publish its final report on best practices for treatment of pain; massage therapy is one of the best practices outlined in the report.


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) necessitates the closure of massage businesses for at least three months in most U.S. states. Educational companies pivot to offer virtual classes; massage schools create hybrid curriculum; product manufacturers create new cleaning and PPE products; and many massage therapists find innovative ways to stay in touch with clients, offer educational sessions on self-massage, implement new safety and sanitizing procedures, and return to work.

MASSAGE Magazine establishes the Massage Relief Effort as a direct response to the coronavirus and its effect on communities. This fund is supported by advertisers and donated to the United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. The magazine provides consistent coverage of the effects of COVID-10 on the massage industry, as well as reports on best financial and client-facing practices for massage therapists.

MASSAGE Magazine celebrates its 35th Anniversary.

About the Author:

Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. Articles she’s written recently include “MTs Ask: How Can a Contact Tracing Job Provide Supplemental Income?” and “The MASSAGE Magazine Interview: James Waslaski.”