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Massage Today
August, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 08

Massage in the Mainstream

Appearing on the Today Show and available in workplaces across America, massage is now an affordable and available option.

By Julie Engebretson

Not that long ago, massage was considered a luxury for the rich and famous enjoying expensive vacations at far-away resorts.

We might read about these sometimes exotic treatments in magazines and vacation brochures, but getting a massage ourselves wouldn't necessarily be considered a realistic option. What a difference a few years can make. Take a look around and you might notice that massage has, without a doubt, entered the mainstream. Massage therapists have set up thriving businesses in malls, airports, day spas, hotels, salons, athletic clubs, as well as private practices. And national media outlets like NBC's Today Show are picking up the trend and spreading the word about the benefits of massage.

The number of massage therapists currently practicing in the U.S. has grown to more than 160,000, according to a study done by the American Massage Therapy Association. Professional sports teams and weekend warriors alike are also coming to appreciate the benefits that massage therapy can provide, such as quicker recovery time from injury. Even if those referred to massage therapists due to an injury are discounted, there is still a noticeable increase in public awareness.

In addition to health insurance, stock options and paid vacation, companies are looking for new and more relaxing ways to stay competitive in the cut-throat world of big business and have found that offering massage treatments to employees is a great perk. As featured on the Today Show June 8, many organizations, including one West Coast marketing agency in particular, now encourage their employees to break from the daily grind for regular massages.

Once seen as merely an upper-class extravagance, massage therapy continues to move into the mainstream; and more businesses are offering massage to help retain employees in a market where they might easily leave their job to work for a competitor. According to the AMTA survey, between 1997 and 2000, the percentage of adults visiting a massage therapist doubled to 16 percent.

"We have to do whatever we can to keep our employees happy. There's a lot of competition right now in our industry," said Tracy Cote, head of human resources at San Francisco-based Organic, Inc. "There's been an upswing in the market in the past 12 months. Business is better for us, but business is also better for our competitors," she said. "It's all about recruiting and retaining." Organic, Inc., began by offering on-site massage to employees once a month, but, due to demand, frequency was increased to twice per month. Now, demand is so high, Organic is considering offering massage on a weekly basis.

It's no mystery why businesses like Organic, Inc., are wising up to the benefits of massage therapy. Research shows that massage can lower stress, tension and fatigue. A study in the International Journal of Neuroscience showed that those who received massage were more alert and calculated math problems more quickly and accurately than those who did not receive therapy. From an employer's standpoint, work-related stress undoubtedly limits job satisfaction among employees, contributing to increased turnover. But, if a company can do anything to maintain or even improve the health of an employee, he or she is certain to miss fewer days of work due to illness, keeping productivity high and potentially contributing to lower employer-paid health care premiums. The benefits of substituting a cigarette break with a 20-minute massage would be immeasurable.

In addition to the corporate exposure to massage, hotels and independent day spas continue to expand their spa options. One emerging trend seems to be an expansion of existing spa offerings, possibly including local ingredients into treatment options. People enjoying these spa vacations might seek out similar services in their area once they return home, which brings up the growing home spa industry with its various devices, oils, lotions and incense.

We are indeed a nation on the go! And it seems more Americans headed to the mall, airport or athletic club are looking to stay healthy, relieve stress and relax by making an appointment for a massage.


  1. Wulfhorst, Ellen. "More workers get massage and yoga on company time." Press release. Reuters, June 8, 2006.
  2. Whalen, Mike. 'Massage Enters the Mainstream."
  3. Today Show, massage segment, June 13, 2006.
  4. 2005 AMTA Industry Fact Sheet


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