Massage Therapy: 2018 Trends in Massage
What’s New in Massage: Trends in Massage Therapy for 2018 and Beyond
In 2005, it’s estimated that massage therapy may have made for a $6 billion industry. Since then, it’s grown considerably. According to researchers and data from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage is now estimated to be a $16 billion per year industry here in the United States alone. With around 350,000 massage therapists and students nationwide, roughly one in one hundred people is engaged in some way in the massage industry. Revenue and job growth has shifted as well. Over the past five years, revenue generated by alternative and complementary health practitioners (including massage therapist) increased by around 4%, while employment numbers went up by 3.3%. Consumer survey data indicates that as many as 59.5 million adult Americans — roughly 24% of the population here in the United States — got at least one massage. It’s clear that the massage industry is growing. Massage is gaining popularity amongst Americans, with an increasing number of people seeking out massage for a variety of reasons. At the same time, the number of massage therapists is inching upward from year to year, even as the industry grows and revenue increases. If you’re new to the field of massage and currently studying for the MBLEx massage exam, you might be wondering where the industry is headed. What can you expect in the future as a massage therapist? Will growth continue indefinitely? What do consumers want these days from their massage therapist? What are the primary reasons that people are seeking out massage? What’s the approximate demographic of the average massage therapist? Will employment continue to go up, or is there a chance that finding a job will be difficult?
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the major trends in the massage industry. Our goal will be to answer as many of your questions as possible about the future of massage. After this short read, you’ll have a better sense of some of the major trends in the industry. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
Massage Will Continue to Grow
Some massage therapists worry about industry growth. Newer massage therapists and current students are particularly concerned. When you’re just getting into a new industry and don’t have an established business in place, the thought of a shrinking industry can be frightening. Will people continue to come for massages in droves? Will the industry get bigger, or is there a bubble that’s about to burst? According to the AMTA, the massage industry shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to overall growth. As mentioned above, overall revenue industry wide grew by roughly 4% between 2012-2017. As of this year, the estimate is that revenue will continue to grow by at least 4% per year from now until 2022. Further, the Bureau for Labor Statistics estimates that overall job growth will be much higher than average here in the United States. While the average growth rate across all occupations (in terms of employment levels) is around 7%, massage therapy is expected to grow by a staggering 26% by 2026. Part of this growth is attributed to the aging baby boomer generation, which will seek out an increasing amount of treatment from massage therapists in the years to come.
Massage Therapist Demographics
Job growth and increased revenue seem to be a given with massage in the coming years. But what about demographics amongst massage therapists? What is the average massage therapist like? Will you as an individual practitioner fit in with the current demographic, or will you stand out amongst your peers? In an industry survey from 2017, the AMTA found a number of interesting facts about who the average massage therapist is. According to AMTA data, the majority of massage therapists get into massage as a second career: it’s somewhat rare for someone to jump into massage straight out of high school or college as a first job. Nearly 90% of massage therapists are female, with men making up a small fraction of the workforce. Massage therapists are also predominantly middle aged: the median age for massage therapists is 46, with only 22% of practitioners nationwide being under 35 years old. Other data gives further insight into what it’s like to work in the massage profession. For example, the AMTA noted that the majority of massage therapists run a solo practice rather than working in a group setting. Additionally, the average number of hours worked per week came to 19.5 nationwide. Keep in mind that this number only refers to the actual number of hours dedicated to massage treatment, and doesn’t include other business-related tasks such as restocking supplies, marketing and advertising their massage business, dealing with insurance and scheduling, keeping up with accounting, and so on.
Additionally, massage therapists were charging an average of $72.13 per hour for massage. This number was up from $71.64 in 2016, and it’s expected to continue to inch up from year to year. Overall, massage therapists were earning roughly $58 per hour once all other work was factored in. One last interesting thing to note is the trend in work environments for massage professionals. While many people associate massage with a spa environment, only about 23% of therapists work in a spa or salon of some kind. Meanwhile, 44% of massage therapists reported that they perform at least some of their work in a client’s home, with another 42% performing some of their work in their own office (and 29% in their own home). This is in alignment with the data indicating that the majority of massage therapists are sole practitioners.
Why Clients Seek Out Massage Therapy
While it’s important to understand how things are trending within the massage profession in terms of job growth, revenue, and practitioner demographics, there’s another important question to address. With so many Americans seeking out massage each year, what is their primary motivation? Why are they going to get a massage? By understanding what clients are looking for, you can ensure that you’re offering services that line up with the needs and wants of the majority of massage clients. According to data from the National University of Health Sciences, fully 52% of people who recently received a massage did so for primarily medical reasons. The next most prevalent primary reason for receiving a massage was for the sake of relaxation and stress reduction, a response reported by 33% of people. 19% sought out massage for pain relief or pain management, 15% for general soreness, stiffness, or muscle spasm, 11% in order to recover from an injury or as part of a larger program of rehabilitation, another 11% as a “special indulgence” or simply in order to feel good, 5% for the sake of overall wellness and health, and only 1% for prenatal or pregnancy reasons.
This data is interesting to keep in mind if you’re beginning your career in massage. When studying for the massage licensing exam, consider how familiar you are with addressing each of these issues. Also, think about how you might like to direct your practice as part of the overall massage profession. A focus on prenatal massage, for example, will likely require a significant amount of marketing on your part in order to be viable and profitable. Meanwhile, specializing in medical massage and following a massage career path that places you in a medical environment could be a good move if you’re looking for a secure future and a predictable income.
State Licensing Requirement and Industry Acceptance Trends
Years ago, massage wasn’t regulated at all. With the founding of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) in 2005 and the establishment of the MBLEx massage licensing exam, things have changed considerably. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, an increasing number of states are expected to adopt licensure requirements in the coming years. As of now, 46 states (along with the District of Columbia) already regulate massage and/or offer voluntary state-level certification. The AMTA’s assumption is that some local municipalities may begin to regulate massage as well, in instances where the state fails to do so. As of now, the majority of states regulating massage require that those new to the profession sit for and pass the MBLEx massage licensing exam before they can begin practicing in that state.
With more and more states licensing massage, it’s estimated that the profession will become increasingly accepted as a useful complementary health modality by mainstream medical practitioners. As this begins to happen, the demand for massage therapy will increase even further. Of course, it’s worth remembering that limitations placed on clients by their insurance coverage could hinder the ability of certain segments of the population to obtain medical massage.
Trends in Massage Therapy and Health Care
Years ago, mainstream medical practitioners were suspicious of massage. Some of them considered it harmless at best, while others lumped it together with other alternative modalities (such as chiropractic treatment) as nothing more than a waste of their patients’ time and money. In recent years, though, this has changed dramatically. Part of the reason for the change is the number of Americans who have begun to broach the topic of massage with their doctor or another health care practitioner. According to the AMTA, as many as 50 million adult Americans had talked to their doctor about the potential benefits of massage at some point in the past year. That’s roughly 18% of the total population. Out of those 50 million Americans, 59% of them were referred to a therapist and/or had massage therapy recommended to them by their doctor. The statistics are similar amongst chiropractors and physical therapists, with 40% of chiropractors and 46% of physical therapists recommending a patient seek out massage following an inquiry from one of their patients.
Additionally, both massage therapists and clients want to see massage further integrated into the health care industry as a whole. According to survey data, around 64% of Americans said that they want their insurance to cover massage therapy. Meanwhile, virtually all massage therapists — some 97% — say that they believe massage ought to be considered part of the health care field.
What Do Client Want? Trends for 2018
As a massage therapist, your job is to cater to the needs of your clients. Every client is different. Some come in with a sports related injury, while others might be suffering from chronic pain that’s been with them for years. Still others may have suffered an acute injury as the result of a car accident or something similar. And, of course, there are a large number of clients who simply want to de-stress with a massage every now and then.
The question is, what do your clients want from you as a massage professional?
First, clients appear to be demanding an increasing amount of personalization as part of their overall massage experience. The average client doesn’t want to receive the exact same massage that everyone else gets when they come into your office. When a client comes in, they feel that they should be able to describe their current condition — sometimes at great length — and then have you formulate a customized treatment strategy for their particular issue. As a result, you’ll need to ensure that you stay up to date on a wide variety of massage modalities and have the tools necessary to offer your clients what they want.
Additionally, clients are increasingly interested in preventative health care. While many clients will continue to come to see you for medical- and injury-related reasons, it’s becoming more and more common for people to seek out massage as a kind of preventative therapy. With this in mind, you should expect some clients to come to you with a generalized desire to simply “feel better” and “take care of themselves.” Knowing how to talk these clients through their experience, explaining to them the various benefits of massage therapy for their overall wellbeing, will help to ensure that they keep coming back as a repeat client for further preventative care.
The Future of Massage
The massage profession is changing rapidly, but all signs currently indicate that things are looking good for massage therapists. More and more states will likely begin to regulate massage in the years to come, and existing regulations could grow more stringent. If you’re in a state which currently has no licensing requirements, it would be a good idea to brush up on the MBLEx massage licensing exam. Bamboo™ offers affordable study guides and practice tests to help prepare you for the massage exam, should you ever need to take it. Click here to learn more about Bamboo.