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Study describes training and practice characteristics of massage therapists

Interest in massage therapy grew during the 1970s and it is now one of the most popular complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments. In a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS09565 and HS08194), interviews with 226 licensed massage therapists in Connecticut and Washington revealed that most massage therapists were women (85 percent) and white (95 percent). Most had completed some continuing education training in therapeutic massage (79 percent in Connecticut and 52 percent in Washington). They practiced a median of 4 to 5 years and received a median of 600 hours of clinical training (a minimum of 500 hours and passing a national certification exam is required in most of the 33 States regulating massage practice).

Licensed massage therapists typically saw 10 to 15 patients per week and treated a limited number of conditions. Swedish, deep tissue, and trigger (pressure) point were the most popular techniques in both States. The massage therapists mostly used massage to treat back, neck, and shoulder problems (59 percent in Connecticut and 63 percent in Washington), for wellness care (20 and 19 percent), and for psychological complaints, especially anxiety and depression (9 and 6 percent). Although most patients referred themselves to a massage therapist, more than one-fourth received concomitant care for the same problem from a physician, with whom massage therapists rarely communicated.

See "A survey of training and practice patterns of massage therapists in two U.S. states," by Karen J. Sherman, Ph.D., M.P.H., Daniel C. Cherkin, Ph.D., Janet Kahn, Ph.D., and others, in the June 2005 BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5(13), online at

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