Massage Therapy: Fighting the Opioid Addiction Crisis

massage therapy

Massage Therapy: Fighting the Opioid Addiction Crisis

The opioid epidemic is the preeminent public health crisis of our time. Statistics from the Surgeon General of the United States indicate that as many as 2 million Americans are currently addicted to or otherwise dependent upon prescription opioids. Unfortunately, it is legitimate pain that drives many Americans to an opioid prescription, which sometimes leads to opioid or heroin abuse; then addiction and, too often, overdose. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 50, according to data compiled by the New York Times. In response, a number of health organizations are seriously looking at alternative ways to manage pain.

Could incorporating massage therapy into the battle with the U.S. opioid epidemic contain the potential, as pain experts believe, to save people from suffering and ultimately save lives?

In the past year, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has been actively engaged with several organizations and agencies regarding massage therapy for pain — specifically as an alternative to opioids. AMTA works with the Academy of Integrative Pain Management to keep the conversation going on how massage therapy should be integrated into approaches to pain.

Examples of Helping Government Address Opioid Use

AMTA worked directly with the West Virginia Attorney General for a program to reduce use of opioids for pain. The state is very positive about the incorporation of massage therapy in a list of approaches to pain that can help stop the rampant use of opioids there where opioid abuse is the highest in the country.

The state public education program includes a recommendation of massage therapy as a first-line approach vs. opioids. As a result, AMTA has been actively discussing a similar approach with legislators in an increasing number of states.
AMTA also connected the state officials in West Virginia with researchers in Kentucky working on this same subject.

They have an ongoing relationship with researchers at the University of Kentucky for educational roundtables in both West Virginia and Kentucky. They recently published some of their results, showing the value and efficacy of massage as a substitute for opioids.

Those who suffer pain, whether short-term or chronically are benefitting from adding massage therapy to their regimen, and research agrees. Ask your doctors about adding massage therapy to your pain-management plan. Visit to learn about the services offered in our student clinic.