The American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA) continues to be involved in ongoing interactions with health care, wellness and medical organizations with several goals and objectives in mind:

• To influence the health care community so it acknowledges the value of massage therapy and professional massage therapists;

• To educate all in the health care and wellness industries about the benefits of massage therapy and the growing body of research that supports its value;

• To increase collaboration between AMTA, its members and other health care and wellness industry leaders;

• To enhance the potential for massage therapists to practice in collaboration with other health care providers and in integrative care; and,

• To increase the overall acceptance of massage therapy and advance professional opportunities for all massage therapists.

AMTA’s Health Care Relationships

Massage is increasingly accepted by consumers as an important component of their health can wellness. While new clinical research is also getting the attention of more people in the medical community.

“Anyone who follows the health care situation in this country knows it is constantly changing and it is very complex,” says AMTA President Cynthia Ribeiro. “We have gained the respect of many in health care and they recognize AMTA as the best resource for information about massage therapy. They turn to us to understand how massage therapy and massage therapists can be components of health and wellness care.”

May 15-18, 2012 AMTA will attend the third International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (IRCIMH). Integrative medicine involves a multi-stakeholder (patient, doctor, therapists, etc) collaborative approach to achieve optimal health and healing for patients. The IRCIMH will provide useful research and additional opportunities for AMTA to gain invaluable insight into integrative clinical best practices.

Participation in this congress follows AMTA’s involvement in the Third International Fascia Research Congress, March 28-30, 2012. In addition to the knowledge provided on integrative practice and research on fascia, AMTA expanded its relationships with several Canadian massage therapy organizations and fascia societies.

In April 2011, AMTA announced its collaboration with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing on a research analysis of the effectiveness of therapeutic massage in care provided to inpatients in the hospital over a four year period. AMTA expects the results of the collaboration and analysis to help lay the groundwork for further major studies on massage therapy in hospitals and other medical facilities. The association also is extending its relationships with other major centers of research, including the Duke University Integrative Medicine Program, to advance clinical study of massage therapy.

This is an extension of AMTA’s commitment to supporting and expanding both the nature and quality of massage therapy research. It also enhances the association’s commitment as the sustaining benefactor of the Massage Therapy Foundation. And, AMTA remains dedicated to its goal to inform its members, the massage therapy community, those in health care and the public about the growing body of massage therapy research.

Susan Rosen of Washington State serves as AMTA’s representative to the American Medical Association Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee (HCPAC), continuing her three-year term on the committee. As AMTA’s Primary Advisor to HCPAC, she is the massage therapy representative on the committee. In this capacity, she and a representative of AMTA staff also attended the HCPAC annual meeting last October.

HCPAC serves in an advisory capacity to the AMA CPT Editorial Panel. In addition to AMTA’s massage therapist representative, members of HCPAC include representatives from the professions of social work, athletic training, speech therapy, podiatry, pharmacy, optometry, occupational therapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, and nursing, as well as physician assistants and dieticians.

This relationship gives AMTA and the massage therapy profession input on review of CPT codes associated with massage therapy. It also ensures AMTA is consulted when codes are edited or introduced that relate to massage therapy. And, as the AMTA representative, Rosen builds relationships and educates other health care professionals, especially those in physical and rehabilitation medicine, about the application and integration of massage therapy in the health care setting.

AMTA’s connections with the AMA and HCPAC also resulted in the creation of a panel discussion for the 2011 AMTA National Convention on the topic of “Navigating the Complex World of Health Care Integration”.

This year, AMTA again provided the AMA with an updated description of the massage therapy profession for its Health Care Career Directory. This directory provides information on recognized health care fields and what someone can expect if they choose to pursue a career in massage therapy. It is also used as a resource by those in a variety of health care professions. AMTA has provided this updated description for nearly ten years, further cementing recognition by the AMA of massage therapists as health care professionals.

AMTA continues as a member of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC), which seeks to create and sustain a network of national complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) educational organizations and agencies.

The Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) is a broad coalition of health care professionals and organizations focused on public policy to ensure all Americans access to safe, high quality, integrated health care. AMTA is a member of IHPC’s “Partners in Health”, an inter-disciplinary forum of various CAM and integrated health care professions.

AMTA also recognizes it can learn from and contribute to international discussions on integrative health care. The association has participated in discussions with groups from several countries on integrating massage therapy and CAM therapies into health care and expanding professional recognition of massage therapy. These have included relationships with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada, the Australian Association of Massage Therapists and developing massage therapist associations in South America and Europe.

With its health care goals in mind, and the growth in this segment of massage therapy practice, AMTA’s 2012 National Convention will again provide a special health care track in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is an opportunity for massage therapists, whether they are AMTA members or not, to learn more about gaining access to work in health care facilities and the role of massage therapy in integrated care. A special closing plenary session of the convention will feature Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Adam Perlman of the Duke University Integrative Medicine Program, Dr. Steven Blair of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and Dale Healey of the School of Massage Therapy at Northwestern Health Sciences University speaking on their strategies for successful collaboration in managing pain by focusing on client-centered care. Following the convention, AMTA has coordinated a special Duke University tour of their integrative medicine program.

What Does this Mean for Massage Therapists?

The American Massage Therapy Association is actively engaged every day in advancing the profession. These relationships with the health care/medical communities provide a strong voice for those massage therapists who seek to work within health care, while recognizing and protecting the rights of those massage therapists who practice in other sectors of the massage therapy profession.

Further acceptance of massage therapy as a viable part of health care and wellness will benefit all in the profession. Not only will it present new work potential for those who want to work within health care, it will provide all massage therapists with confirming support for what they do, whether it is in private practice, in a spa or health club, a massage therapy franchise, or with a sports team.

AMTA maintains its view that a growing body of research on the efficacy of massage therapy will be conducted and results published in the next few years. The association will use this research and its relationships in health care to advance the massage therapy profession in the eyes of the medical profession and the public.

The American Massage Therapy Association is a professional association serving massage therapists, massage students and massage schools. The association is directed by volunteer leadership and fosters ongoing, direct member-involvement through its 51 chapters. AMTA works to advance the profession through ethics and standards, the promotion of fair and consistent licensing of massage therapists in all states, and public education on the benefits of massage. Founded in 1943, AMTA has not changed its Professional Member dues for more than 24 years. The association looks forward to celebrating its 70th birthday in 2013.