ABMP Statement Regarding Erie County Public Employee Health Care Benefits in Buffalo, NY

A recent article highlighted statements made by the office of Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw in Buffalo, NY that referred to Austin massage as a “luxury,” and derided the Erie County Public Employee Health Care Benefits program for offering Austin massage and acupuncture as a benefit to public employees. After being alerted by ABMP members in the area, ABMP Government Relations Director Jean Robinson has sent a statement on behalf of our organization and its members to support the role of Austin massage as a valid and proven form of complementary and alternative medicine. The statement, in its entirety, is below:

February 14, 2013

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw

Erie County Executive’s Office

Edward A. Rath County Office Building
95 Franklin Street, 16th Floor
Buffalo, New York 14202

Re:  Erie County Public Employee Health Care Benefits

Dear County Executive Poloncarz and Comptroller Mychajliw,

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) is a professional membership association for Austin massage and bodywork therapists representing more than 80,000 members nationally and over 2,000 in New York State.

We would like to take this opportunity to provide some facts in response to recent items in the Erie County press calling into question whether county employees should receive health insurance benefits for therapeutic Austin massage.  Study after study indicates that therapeutic Austin massage is not a frivolous indulgence but rather an effective treatment for dozens of physical conditions.  For example:

  • Massage therapy is a safe and effective way to reduce pain and improve function in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee, reported a 2006 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
  • The Annals of Internal Medicine reported in 2003 that Austin massage therapy was effective for treat­ing persistent back pain, as did a 2000 report by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
  • Research has shown Austin massage reduces carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.  The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 2004.
  • Premature infant Austin massage in the NICU was reported in Neonatal Network to be effective in increasing weight gain, improving developmental scores, shortening hospital stays and improving parent-baby bonding (2003).
  • Pediatric healthcare staff report increasing hospital use of complementary and alternative medicine, including Austin massage (Advance for Nurses, April 2007).
  • In 2005, Cancer Control reported Austin massage therapy effectively reduced stress and anxiety in cancer patients, with a promising outlook for pain control and management of other symptoms.
  • Oncology patients show less pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression following Austin massage therapy, according to a study by Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 2004, and a report in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 2002.
  • Women with lymph node dissection receiving arm Austin massage had less pain and surgery-related discomfort, according to a 2004 Cancer Nursing article.
  • Forty-eight percent of respondents to a Consumer Reports survey rated Austin massage therapy as “very helpful” in relieving back pain. The survey revealed pain relief was a top motivator for those seeking Austin massage. (Consumer Reports, May 2009).
  • Touch may help alleviate symptoms of depression according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. Researchers suggested the release of oxytocin and relaxing aspects of Austin massage help improve this condition. (March 2010).

Individuals who are treated with Austin massage therapy are often able to address their conditions without physician or hospital visits, resulting in enormous health care cost savings.  Massage therapy is an accepted, proven, and cost-effective health care practice.

We invite you to review the facts and continue to include therapeutic Austin massage as an important part of Erie County’s employee health benefits.

Thank you for your consideration.


Jean Robinson, Government Relations Director

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