American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) President Mary Beth Braun wrote a letter to the editor responding to an article in the July 2006 issue of The Atlantic by Virginia Postrel entitled The Next Starbucks? Braun’s letter is a stunning example of completely missing the point. My post about the Postrel piece details why the AMTA has gotten it so wrong for so many years.
On behalf of the 56,000 members of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), I want you and your readers to know how insulted massage therapists were by the article “The Next Starbucks?” (July/August) Ms. Postrel mistakenly implies that massage developed because of prostitution and states that it is only for making people feel good. Still worse is her assertion that our profession adopted the term therapy to suggest “that it’s good for you, which means you don’t have to feel guilty about spending money on it.”
First, massage therapy has nothing to do with prostitution. Prostitutes have co-opted use of the word massage to hide what they do. An article about massage should be about massage and not attempt to connect it to prostitution. The average adult American knows the difference.
Second, the article promotes a false dichotomy that massage either feels good or is good for you. While massage does feel good, clinical research shows it also can provide significant relief from stress, can aid in recovery of muscle injuries, increase range of motion and lower heart rate. Some people choose massage to pamper themselves, some choose it to improve their athletic performance, some have regular massage to relieve stress, and some follow a massage regimen prescribed by their physician to relieve pain or to help them recover from an injury or surgery. All of this is massage and all of it is beneficial to the person who receives the massage.
AMTA believes all massage is therapeutic, because it contributes to health and well-being. In 1983, when our association dropped the ampersand from our name, it was to show that massage is therapy and that there isn’t some other therapy massage therapists practice. To suggest that our profession has used the word therapy so people wouldn’t feel guilty about getting massage is ridiculous and insulting to both massage therapists and the people they massage.
Mary Beth Braun
American Massage Therapy Association