How does the public and other health professionals see massage therapists? How likely are they to trust RMTs with their care? How likely are gatekeeper health professionals to refer? Here I report on some of the survey’s findings, with take-away action steps at the end.
“As part of the strategic plan for the profession, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario, the Heads of Massage Therapy Programs in Community Colleges, the Ontario Council of Private Massage Therapy Colleges, and the Registered Massage Therapists Association of Ontario initiated and completed a survey to understand the profession’s credibility. The purpose of the Credibility Survey was to establish an understanding of the creditability of the massage therapy profession from the perspective of the public and other health care professionals.”
Of the general population, 1122 people were surveyed, with another 417 health care professionals specifically.
RMTs received a 72% favourable response by the general population, and a solid 92% by physicians and nurses, with dentists close behind at 91%. RMTs faired better credibly than chiropractors (65%) and kinesiologists (49%). Eighty-three general public respondents feel RMTs are “very competent”, however only one in four health care professionals surveyed would advocate on behalf of RMTs. Advocacy is defined in the survey as “the propensity to speak highly of a profession without being prompted.”
RMTs at 44% ranked behind physicians (55%) and physiotherapists (51%) by public respondents when asked who they would choose to treat a soft tissue, muscle or joint problem.
Two in five general public respondents have received massage therapy treatment in the past, and over half receive RMT care once/year or even less often. Younger respondents and those with higher education are most likely to seek massage therapy care.
Main reasons for seeking massage therapy: back or neck pain, general muscle pain/tension, and because of a physician’s referral. Public respondents are more likely to seek massage therapy care for injury and pain (78%) as opposed to maintain their health (22%).
Interestingly, when asked to choose between two opposing statements, general public respondents see massage therapy as “an extra” (67%) rather than “a necessity” (32%). What’s more, they see massage therapy as “about fixing a problem” (65%) rather than “about prevention” (35%). Perception was split down the middle between seeing a massage therapy session as “a medical visit” or “a spa visit”, and health professionals surveyed perceived the same.
Three out of four health care professional respondents would recommend massage therapy to patients with whom they interact. An encouraging 84% of health professionals surveyed agree that massage therapists are important partners in health care, with 72% believing RMTs are a credible source of health information.
Of the health professionals surveyed, 40% have recommended massage therapy to a patient in the past. Of those who have not, the main obstacle is not knowing enough about massage therapy (46%) or not considering massage therapy an effective treatment (32%). Sixteen percent stated they did not know an RMT to recommend to. Over half (60%) consider RMTs to be their peers, and 76% are very or somewhat likely to recommend massage therapy to their peers.
My take-aways from the survey:
i) Massage therapists are seen generally as favourable and credible
ii) The public uses massage therapy infrequently (once/year or less), and considers a physician or physiotherapist over massage therapist in seeking treatment for muscle and joint problems.
iii) Massage therapy is seen more often as an intervention to pain and adjunctive “extra” as opposed to a strategy for disease prevention and wellness “necessity”.
iv) Both the public and health care professionals view the dual identities of massage therapy equally as a rehabilitative/medical intervention, or a spa service.
iv) Perceptions by health care professionals are generally favourable although only one in four would advocate – ie: recommend without being prompted – for RMT care
Massage therapists and their advocates/associations can do more to extend positive public and media relations regarding massage therapists, and support research and evidence-based practice to enlarge perceived effectiveness of massage therapy care in a rehabilitative setting.
RMT 2010 Public and Health Professional Credibility Study https://www.cmto.com/pdfs/CredibilitySurvey.pdf