The AAMT Bulletin – Summer 2015



An update on developments in the massage therapy sector


From the CEO

If I could leave you with one take home message from AAMT for 2015, it is that not all massage therapists are the same.

Some massage therapists are highly qualified health professionals who deliver higher level and technically skilled services in hospitals, clinical practices, and elite sports settings, while others offer base level wellbeing and relaxation massage.

Policy and regulation that does not recognise the distinction between these advanced qualifications and less qualified therapists with lower level training or formal education is a key issue of reform for AAMT.

During 2015, AAMT advocated strongly for this recognition, in the hope of educating key policy-makers and stakeholders, in order to redress the current situation where many private and public patients do not have access to the best possible massage therapy treatments available.

A collaborative approach that sets in motion enhanced processes to encourage, recognise and reward the professional development of massage therapists, and allows greater integration of advanced massage services that are known to be of clinical benefit, will continue to be the focus of our work during 2016.

Season greetings and may the New Year bring to you prosperity and happiness.

With sincere regards,

Tricia Hughes

Policy and Regulation

AAMT’s position on the Private health Insurance Rebate Review

At the heart of the issues concerning private health insurance rebates and insurance cover is evidence supporting the clinical efficacy of massage as an intervention. In other words, can the health benefits be proved beyond doubt according to the Cochrane Standards?

AAMT supports evidence-based treatment and efforts to weed out false or misleading health claims.

Consequently we welcomed the finalisation of the Department of Health’s (DoH) Review of natural therapies and called on the Federal Government to prioritise a program of research funding in areas where the evidence suggests therapies are of likely benefit and where more research would be beneficial.

Importantly, the findings of Researchers’ who undertook the DoH review supported this call stating that it is also more likely that further research may identify clinical conditions for which particular therapies are effective such as massage therapy.

A 2008 AAMT/RMIT study which reviewed 740 studies into massage conducted prior to 2008 found that a growing body of research supports massage therapy as being an evidence-based therapeutic modality.

The study also found that there are many opportunities for further research into the benefits of massage therapy for infants, depression and post-natal depression, labour pain, fibromyalgia, premenstrual syndrome, urinary symptoms in multiple sclerosis, myofascial pain, and osteoarthritis of the knee.

However, it is impossible to implement some requirements under the Cochrane Standard such as a double blind placebo massage. This involves the researcher, massage therapists and patient not knowing which massage is a placebo or the real thing in order to establish a clear cause and effect link with a minimal chance of outside influences.

The challenge therefore, is to develop a suitable research methodology of a recognised and accepted standard. Gaining acknowledgement and collaboration with the NHMRC on developing appropriate and reliable mixed methods of studies for particular modalities, as an alternative to simply applying a rarely obtainable ‘gold plated’ research standard, is essential if the potential benefits of massage are to be understood and exploited for the benefits of patients.

AAMT will continue to work to achieve greater confidence in the benefits and value of massage and myotherapy by addressing the need for high value clinical evidence, and encouraging further acceptance and integration of advanced clinical massage within the healthcare system.

Massage can respond to demands of ageing population

Massage therapy is not a cure for disease, nor is it a replacement for primary medical care. Remedial Massage Therapy and Myotherapy helps to keep people of all ages moving and living more active and healthy lives by relieving the symptoms of physical and emotional injury, pain and stress.

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) recently called for improving access to palliative care outside the hospital system, in its statement ‘Recognising the value of palliative care – AIHW report’:

‘The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report shows that hospitalisations increased by 52 per cent since 2003–2004, which the PCA observed was related to an increase in demand for palliative care.

The trend reported by the AIHW comes as no surprise as massage and myotherapy therapists are increasingly being called upon to deliver palliative and oncology massage to help relieve pain and stress.’

The AIHW findings also seem to correlate with the 2012 Survey of AAMT Registered Massage Therapists in which up to 37 per cent of therapists reported offering services for cancer treatment issues such as pain, Lymphedema and distress.

While the AAMT 2012 practitioners survey found that patients are spending an average of $612 on cancer treatment issues and $585 on chronic conditions, Health Funds have reduced insurance coverage for massage to $100 annually.

Federal legislation concerning Medicare also limits competition and prevents many public and private patients in rural and urban areas from accessing and/or affording the best quality, more cost competitive specialist massage care provided by remedial massage therapists who have specialist and advanced training and skills.

We hope to see further integration of massage into the palliative care system which will help to ensure that patients have access to choice of the best health care options available.

Recent papers and studies

The increasing use of massage is underpinned by a growing body of clinical evidence.

Pilot Study of Massage in Veterans with Knee Osteoarthritis

Results of this pilot study support the feasibility and acceptability of Swedish massage among VA health care users as well as preliminary data suggesting its efficacy for reducing pain due to knee OA.

Juberg, Michael, Jerger, Kristin K, Allen, Kelli D, Dmitrieva, Natalia O, Keever, Teresa & Perlman, Adam I, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, June 2015, vol.21, issue 6, pp.333–338.

Read more

Reducing symptoms of palliative care patients

Massage is a useful tool for improving symptom management and reducing suffering in palliative care patients.

Mitchinson Fletcher, CE, Kim, HM, Montagnini, M, Hinshaw, DB, ‘Integrating massage therapy within the palliative care of veterans with advanced illnesses: an outcome study’, Am J Hosp Palliat Care, 2014, Feb., vol.31, no.1, pp.6-12.

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Massage combined with aromatherapy

Massage and aromatherapy massage confer short term benefits on psychological wellbeing

Fellowes, D1, Barnes, K, Wilkinson, S, ‘Aromatherapy and massage for symptom relief in patients with cancer’, Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004; (2):CD002287.

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