A massage therapist helps an elderly client
A massage therapist helps an elderly client

Expanding Access to Massage Therapy Through Federal Legislation

By Massage Today, Editorial Staff
September 9, 2021

Expanding Access to Massage Therapy Through Federal Legislation

By Massage Today, Editorial Staff
September 9, 2021

According to the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), the United States has an estimated 50 million adults suffering from chronic pain. The CDC also identifies almost 20 million adults as suffering from high-impact chronic pain, such as having the inability to walk for long periods or participate in daily activities. Many people turn to opioid medications to help with their conditions and develop dependency issues in addition to the chronic pain they are trying to alleviate. 

With these staggering statistics and September being pain awareness month, we look at how three federal legislative initiatives aim to help chronic pain sufferers by making integrative therapies, like massage therapy, more accessible to both patients and health care providers as part of a comprehensive, non-pharmacological approach for pain relief. 


The bipartisan Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act was first introduced in 2019 and reintroduced in March 2021 due to growing awareness around how COVID-19 has worsened the opioid epidemic. It aims to increase patient and provider access to non-opioid approaches to acute pain management, including massage therapy. 

This bill focuses on making non-addictive therapies like massage widely available to millions of Americans with the goal of reducing non-necessary exposure to opioids and the likelihood of opioid abuse or addiction following an acute pain incident. 

Get more information on the NOPAIN Act here.

CARA 3.0

In March 2021, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 3.0 bill as a response to the growing opioid epidemic that worsened during COVID-19. This bill adds to the original Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) program, which was enacted in 2016. And in July, the bipartisan companion bill, H.R. 4341, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. David J. Trone, (D-MD-6).

CARA 3.0 is a comprehensive approach to chronic and acute pain and substance abuse that includes access to integrative approaches to pain management like massage therapy to help address the rising opioid epidemic.

This bill contains several provisions of interest to massage therapists, including new research into non-opioid pain management alternatives and increasing continuing education for physicians and providers. The bill also contains specific language from the NOPAIN Act that requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress on identified gaps in Medicare coverage for pain—including massage therapy—and make recommendations to increase patient access to these therapies.

Explore the bill here.

HHS Funding Bill

In July, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor HHS) funding bill. The bill contains significant funding increases for most public health efforts, including more than $600 million in combined funding for opioids, stimulants and pain research. The provisions highlighted in the bill are:

•          Defending reproductive health care;

•          Protecting migrants;

•          Protecting workers rights;

•          Protecting civil rights;

•          Expanding opportunity and ensuring accountability in education;

•          Supporting people with disabilities;

•          Helping reduce injection-related infections to save lives;

The House report (HRept 117-96) summarizing the FY2022 funding bill directs HHS to launch a public awareness campaign with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on evidence-based non-opioid treatment options, including massage therapy. The report also directs the CDC to conduct needed extensive population data research on pain and the treatment options that exist, as well as the direct and indirect costs associated with pain.

Although language in the House report does not carry the same weight of the funding bill, the massage profession can use the report to better gauge areas of congressional interest.   

For more information, read the full summary here.

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