What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is a comprehensive intervention involving a range of techniques to manipulate the soft tissues and joints of the body. The purpose of massage therapy is to prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function or relieve pain1 (Massage Therapy Act, 1991). It is a clinically-oriented health option that achieves undeniable results in the relief of an array of discomforts stemming from stress, muscular overuse and many chronic pain syndromes.

According to a 1998 US study conducted by Eisenberg, Davis and Ettner2 and based on the results of a follow-up national survey3, complementary and alternative health care (CAHC) as an alternative or adjunct to traditional Western medicine is increasing.

In Canada, it is estimated that between 17-23% of the population4,5 has used massage therapy. In Ontario, 35% of the population has used massage therapy in the past two years.6 Several research studies have illustrated that massage therapy is become accepted as a useful addition to conventional medical treatments7, and by a mixture of populations.8,9,10,11

The therapeutic process is a partnership between client and therapist, working together towards common and realistic goals.

While many individuals might provide "massage", massage therapy should be provided by a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT).  An RMT is an individual who has completed a diploma program at a recognized school of massage therapy and who has passed a registration examination offered by the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario. When looking for a qualified practitioner, look for someone who uses the title Massage Therapists (MT), Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and the equivalents in other languages.

Content is based on a Literature Review conducted by Amanda Baskwill, RMT and Trish Dryden, M.Ed., RMT from Centennial College, Centre for Applied Research in Health, Technology and Education. All material is copyrighted to the Registered Massage Therapist's Association of Ontario and Centennial College, Centre for Applied Research in Health and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written consent of the RMTAO and Centennial College..

Use a Registered Massage Therapist, it's in your best interest!

Its in your best interest to seek massage therapy from a Registered Massage Therapist.  Why? An RMT ...

  • has completed a 2-3 year program at a recognized school of massage therapy;
  • has passed an entry-to-practice examination that ensures they have the competencies necessary to safely and effectively offer massage therapy services;
  • must participate in a Quality Assurance program with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario, a program that assist in the maintenance of professional standards and quality care;
  • is accountable to the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario, through the complaints and discipline processes,  in the event that the services they provide to not meet the standards of practice;
  • provides a receipt that will be accepted by your extended health benefits plan for reimbursement (provided you plan covers massage therapy).

Looking for a Registered Massage Therapist?

The RMTAO provides the public with an easy to use searchable database to locate a massage therapist close to your home or business using your postal code.  Click here to visit RMTfind.com.


1Government of Ontario. (2000). Massage therapy act, 1991. Ottawa, ON: Queen's Printer for Ontario.
2Eisenberg, D.M., Davis, R.B., Ettner, S.L., Appel,, S., et al. (1998). Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA, 280(18), 1569-75.
3Ramsay, C., Walker, M., Alexander, J. (1999). Alternative medicine in Canada: use and public attitudes. Vancouver, BC: The Fraser Institute.
4Ramsay, C., Walker, M., Alexander, J. (1999). Alternative medicine in Canada: use and public attitudes. Vancouver, BC: The Fraser Institute.
5York University Centre for Health Studies. (1999). Complementary and alternative health practices and therapies – a Canadian overview. Toronto, ON: In house.
6Collis and Reed Research. (2003). Report on the massage therapy census 2003 – general public survey. Bowmanville, ON: In house.
7Verhoef, M., & Page, S. (1998 May). Physicians’ perspectives on massage therapy. Can Fam Physician, 44, 1018-20.
8Furlan, A.D., Brosseau, L., Imamura, M., Irvin, E. (2002). Massage for low-back pain: a systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration Back Review Group. Spine, 27(17), 1896-910.
9Dryden, T., Baskwill, A., Preyde, M. (2004). Massage therapy for the orthopaedic patient: a review. Orthop Nurs, 23(5), 327-32.
10Moyer, C.A., Rounds, J., Hannum, J.W. (2004). A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychol Bull, 130(1), 3-18.
11Burford-Mason, A., Dryden, T., Kelner, M., Saunders, P.R., et al. (2005). Complementary and alternative therapies for pain in older adults. Geriatrics & Aging, 8(6), 28-33.