Statistics: Massage Clients
Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) commissions a nationwide survey of massage clients every two years. The most recent was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research in January 2013, and surveyed a representative sample of U.S. adults on their use of massage during 2012..
Who are massage clients?1
Where do clients go for a massage?1
- 16% of all U.S. adults visited a massage therapist in 2012
- 37% of all U.S. adults have visited a massage therapist at some point in their lives
- 22% of adult women visited a massage therapist in 2012
- 10% of adult men visited a massage therapist in 2012
- 60% of massage clients overall are female
What are the reasons people seek massage therapy?1
- 70% relaxation and restoration
- 66% relief of pain or muscular soreness
- 45% stress relief
- 30% injury rehabilitation
Note that these answers add up to more than 100% because survey respondents were asked to choose all reasons they sought massage therapy.
What benefits do clients perceive from massage?2
What do they pay?1
- Costs vary by geographic location; in general, costs are higher in large metropolitan areas
- National average cost (including tip): $69
- National median cost (including tip): $60
- These costs have not changed significantly since surveying began in 2005
Length of massage session2
The average massage session takes one hour. The vast majority (78.5%) are 50-75 minutes in length, with 10.3% being more than 75 minutes long. Shorter sessions are often found in situations such as chair massage in airports and other public venues.
How did clients feel about their most recent massage?1
How do clients find a massage therapist?1
- 75% rated it very satisfactory (8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 0-10)
- Only 5% were dissatisfied (0-4 on a scale of 0-10)
- Google or other Internet source: 50%
- Recommendation from friend/family or healthcare provider: 30%
- Phone book or other print advertising: 19%
- Referral from another massage therapist: 7%
- Other: 4%
Note that these answers add up to more than 100% because survey respondents were asked to choose all methods they used to find a massage therapist.
Public attitudes toward massage therapy
Massage therapy (a term used throughout this site to describe the whole of massage, bodywork, and somatic therapies) gains converts each year, with near-universal favor among first-time customers. Massage is now a therapeutic leader in the burgeoning field of complementary and alternative medicine.
The most typical massage client is a mid- to high-income earner with a college education. All ages enjoy the benefits of massage, but the highest percentage of clients are age 35-49. More women get massages than men.
Although the massage profession is still affected by having its name pirated by unsavory and illegal “massage parlors,” the general public in 2013 is aware that legitimate, professional massage therapy is entirely non-sexual and provides many physical benefits. Among survey respondents who had never had a massage, only 3 percent said they associated the word “massage” with illicit sexual services, while 58 percent associated it with strongly positive imagery such as relaxation, health, pain relief and other therapeutic effects.1
Deterrents to consumer use of massage
In 2013, 63 percent of respondents had never received services from a massage therapist. Of those who had received a massage at some time in the past but had not visited a massage therapist recently, 30 percent said they didn’t feel a massage was necessary, often citing a lack of the pain or soreness that had prompted their previous experience with massage; 11 percent said they were not interested or didn’t find massage helpful. Contrast that with the overwhelming positive response by those who did get a massage in 2013—fully 75 percent voiced very favorable feelings about their most recent massage, with 33 percent rating it a perfect ten-out-of-ten. Clearly more education needs to be done on the benefits of massage, especially in its role as a preventive measure rather than a one-time solution to a specific physical problem.
Cost continues to become less of a factor, with only 13 percent of respondents in 2013 saying it was the main reason they did not get a massage, down from 22 percent in 2011 and 39 percent in 2008. Since the median and average cost of massage have not changed significantly in that time, this is a good sign that consumers are becoming more willing to invest in their health through massage.
Twenty-five percent in 2013 said they just didn’t have time for a massage—the same percentage as in 2011.
Other issues inhibiting broader use of massage therapy include the misperception that massage requires nudity (it doesn’t necessarily require removal of all clothes and is conducted in the United States with careful attention to draping). Earlier Harstad research (2004) found such concerns arose most often among males aged 55-plus.
Unlike chiropractic and physical therapy treatments, most of which are reimbursed by health insurance, more than 90 percent of massage therapy sessions are paid out of the client’s pocket. Only 14 percent of ABMP massage and bodywork practitioners receive third-party insurance reimbursement. Almost all of these cases are related to workers’ compensation disability or accident rehabilitation, and typically make up only a small portion of the practitioner’s total workload.
The services of a massage therapist or bodywork professional may be covered by health insurance when prescribed by a chiropractor or osteopath. Therapies provided as part of a prescribed treatment by a physician or registered physical therapist are often covered.
A number of health insurance plans now recognize massage by assembling networks of approved massage-therapist providers. While few of these plans reimburse therapists for massage work, therapists provide their services to eligible clients for a 20 percent or 25 percent discount from their normal charge rates in return for the plans funneling clients their way.
As alternative therapies gain research validation, they move closer to the realm of conventional medicine, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. While this may pave the way for improved insurance coverage of such treatments, there is some resistance to this movement. Insurance companies take a harder line on funding less well-established practices and criticism of their rate setting and paperwork requirements are legion.
ABMP studies and anecdotal information reveal some practitioners enjoy their status and freedom outside mainstream medicine and wish to avoid the additional administrative work associated with insurance reimbursement.
Consumer demand for these services, and their recognition as legitimate medical expenses, seems likely to drive practitioners and insurers closer together, along with competitive pressure on employers to attract and retain staff.
1. Harstad Strategic Research 2013 Consumer Survey
2. 2009 ABMP Member Survey
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