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Medically Approved

Does insurance cover therapeutic massage?

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Type of insuranceBenefitsHSAs, FSAs, HRAsDiscountsLow cost optionsPain reliefSummary
Insurance plans don’t usually cover massage costs. In some instances, insurance plan wellness benefits can include massage, but it’s best to confirm coverage with an insurer beforehand.
Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Written by Faye Stewart
Updated on

For many people, a massage isn’t just a way to relax, it’s a well-documented way to provide long lasting relief from aches and pains.

Therapeutic massage can help a number of health conditions. For example, if you live with chronic pain from an illness or injury, therapeutic massage can be essential to your pain management plan.

Insurance plans don’t generally have benefits that include therapeutic massage, but they may be open to providing cover in specific situations. Speaking with the insurer directly is the best way to confirm coverage and avoid unexpected costs.

When does insurance cover therapeutic massage?

A person receiving a massage that may be covered by their insurance.
AUDSHULE/Stocksy United

For insurance to cover massage, you’ll often need a referral or prescription from a doctor. However, an insurance company can refuse coverage unless there’s a particular benefit that includes massage.

Medicare doesn’t cover massage. However, if you have another type of insurance, it could help to check whether they cover massage costs. By checking your coverage with them directly, you can avoid any unexpected costs.

“The best way to get coverage for massage is to have a prescription from your physician,” says Robin B. Anderson, a licensed massage therapist and president of the Massage Therapy Foundation. “The insurer may cover the therapy similarly to some other health procedures, especially if it’s deemed medically necessary.”

A 2018 study looked at how seven insurance companies handled reimbursements for massage therapy. The analysis found that:

  • 19% covered massage therapy as part of a rehabilitation plan
  • 23% of companies limited therapy to 15-minute sessions
  • 27% required a doctor’s prescription or referral
  • 27% said massage therapists weren’t covered healthcare professionals, but others, such as physical therapists, could directly bill the insurer for massage services

Therapeutic massage and its benefits

Therapeutic massage is any style of massage that works the soft tissues of the body, such as the skin, muscles, and tendons. It shouldn’t replace regular medical care, but it may help reduce discomfort and pain and improve circulation.


An older 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis found that most massage types can benefit people living with fibromyalgia, with the exception of Swedish massage.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

A small 2017 study found that when receiving regular Swedish massage, people with OA affecting the knees reported less knee pain and saw an improvement in their range of motion.

Plantar fasciitis

According to a 2019 comparison study, cross-friction massage may help plantar fasciitis. This is a condition causing inflammation to a band of tissue in the bottom of the feet.

With cross-friction massage, a massage therapist doesn’t use lotion or oil. The skin moves with the soft tissue, allowing the force to affect the deeper tissue. A therapist will perform this type of deep-pressure massage only for short periods of time.

HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs

Health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible savings accounts (FSAs), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are other options to consider when looking into covering healthcare costs.

An HSA is a savings account you can use if you have a high-deductible insurance plan (HDHP). It lets you put aside pretax money for eligible medical expenses.

An FSA is a savings account you can set up through an employer that offers these plans. You can pay pretax money into the account, and an employer may also contribute.

An HRA is a similar type of account, but an employer pays into it to cover medical expenses.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), therapy you receive as part of medical treatment may qualify for HSA, FSA, or HRA reimbursement, but you may need a doctor’s referral.

Discounted massage therapy

“If you’re unable to claim therapeutic massage through an insurance plan, some massage franchises provide monthly memberships that offer massages at discounted prices,” Anderson says.

“You may also be able to participate in research studies on the benefits of therapeutic massage for free,” she adds.

Low cost massage therapy

Depending on your medical needs, reaching out to a local massage therapy school could be a way to save money.

Many schools offer discounted massage therapy to allow their students real-life training. Professional massage therapists oversee the massages. But Anderson says it’s important to keep in mind that “students in entry-level training may not be experienced enough to treat some more complex issues.” However, it could still help bring you relief and assist with general pain management.

Pain relief

Sometimes, massage therapy alone may not help with the pain and discomfort caused by some chronic health conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Pain management options may include prescription and nonprescription medications, such as:

More powerful pain medications can include opioids, like:

It’s important to note that opioids come with risks, as they can cause dependency. You can discuss all pain medications with a doctor or healthcare professional to ensure you receive the best care.

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

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Massage therapy may be available through an insurance company’s wellness benefit. In some circumstances, they may pay for massage that’s medically necessary when a doctor prescribes it.

Some discounted and low cost options may be available locally if there’s no coverage through an insurer or if you don’t have insurance.

In addition to massage therapy, a doctor or healthcare professional may recommend prescription or nonprescription medications.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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