Providers Refer to Massage Therapists for Pain

Massage therapy is one the most commonly utilized conservative treatments for management of pain and injuries. It is a treatment for headaches, neck pain, upper back pain, and low back pain. Utilization and referrals by primary care physicians depend on several factors. We see some primary care refer for massage therapy quite often, while others do so seldom.

As with many physical medicine treatments, sometimes it is hard to know where the best place to start for treatment. For many types of pain and injuries you could go to a chiropractor, physical therapy, athletic trainer, or massage therapists. Each injury and person is different, and will probably respond to different providers and treatment options. Stage of the injury and timing plays a role in your recovery.

A study was published in the Journal of Manipulation and Physiological Therapeutics in November 2013. The study looked at how often primary care in Australia were referring to massage therapists. It sent out questionnaires to the primary care in the area asking a series of questions. It then took the responses from those to collect data and results.

Some study findings probably would not surprise you. The primary care that were more likely to refer had positive experience themselves with massage therapy. They also heard benefits from their patients and other positive feedback about therapists, providers, and locations. There were also more likely to refer in a urban area compared to a rural area. In places that had more treatment options providers were more likely to refer also.

There was a significant difference on how often some providers refer for massage therapy. As you can imagine some were referring weekly. While others referring only several times a year. It does amaze me to think that a provider can see 1000 cases of neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, or headaches and only refer to massage therapy several times a year.

The benefits of massage are well known a decreasing pain and muscle spasms. They have been shown to be a positive treatment option and headaches, neck pain, and back pain for years. This being said, referral rates for massage therapy are probably higher today than they were in years past. Just like many things in health care, change is slow to occur. Until that time our massage therapist will continue to work hard to decrease your pain and injuries. Below is the abstract from the article that you might find interesting.

More information for therapeutic treatments utilizing Massage Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Chiropractic can be directed to Google+.

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

Volume 36, Issue 9 , Pages 595-603, November 20131

Referral to Massage Therapy in Primary Health Care: A Survey of Medical General Practitioners in Rural and Regional New South Wales, Australia

Jon L. Wardle, ND, MPH, PhD

David W. Sibbritt, MMedStat, PhD

Jon Adams, MA, PhD

Received 5 November 2012; received in revised form 23 September 2013; accepted 23 September 2013. published online 24 October 2013.



Massage therapists are an important part of the health care setting in rural and regional Australia and are the largest complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) profession based on both practitioner numbers and use. The purpose of this study was to survey medical general practitioners (GPs) in rural and regional New South Wales, Australia, to identify their knowledge, attitudes, relationships, and patterns of referral to massage therapy in primary health care.


A 27-item questionnaire was sent to all 1486 GPs currently practicing in rural and regional Divisions of General Practice in New South Wales, Australia. The survey had 5 general areas: the GP's personal use and knowledge of massage, the GP's professional relationships with massage practice and massage practitioners, the GP's specific opinions on massage, the GP's information-seeking behavior in relation to massage, and the GP's assumptions on massage use by patients in their local areas.


A total of 585 questionnaires were returned completed, with 49 survey questionnaires returned as “no longer at this address” (response rate of 40.7%). More than three-quarters of GPs (76.6%) referred to massage therapy at least a few times per year, with 12.5% of GPs referring at least once per week. The GP being in a nonremote location (odds ratio [OR], 14.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.7-50.0), graduating from an Australian medical school (OR, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.09-3.70), perceiving a lack of other treatment options (OR, 2.64; 95% CI, 1.15-6.01), perceiving good patient access to a wide variety of medical specialists (OR, 11.1; 95% CI, 1.7-50.0), believing in the efficacy of massage therapy (OR, 2.75; 95% CI, 1.58-4.78), experiencing positive results from patients using massage therapy previously (OR, 13.95; 95% CI, 5.96-32.64), or having prescribed any CAM previously (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.03-3.27) were all independently predictive of increased referral to massage therapy among the GPs in this study.


There appears to be substantial interface between massage therapy and GPs in rural and regional Australia. There are high levels of support for massage therapies among Australian GPs, relative to other CAM professions, with low levels of opposition to the incorporation of these therapies in patient care.


© 2013 National University of Health Sciences. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.