I truly feel for this woman and sympathize with her situation.
However, the reporting on the incident irresponsible and unfortunate. Notice that she only has symptoms two days after the massage and the acute stroke four days after, yet they tie it to the massage she had.
We all know that stroke is one of the leading causes of death, so it's not unusual for someone to have a stroke. And the causes is not always well defined. An idiopathic (no known cause) hemorrhagic stroke like this woman had is all to common. Even I was diagnosed with having a minor stroke a couple of years ago (at 40 years of age) with no known cause.
Regarding the doctor's comment that they see serious injuries because of massage regularly is ludicrous. There are virtually no instances of harm mentioned in medical databases like Medline - anyone can search this database themselves online.
Here is an extensive review of reported cases of harm through massage: http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/42/9/1101#T2
Here it is in a table for easy reference: http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content-nw/full/42/9/1101/T2
There are very few cases of reported harm. And you have to look at this in the context that there there are millions and millions of massages performed yearly by massage professionals around the world and likely millions of massage performed by lay people on their families or friends. Taken in context: More people are injured by falling coconuts than a massage.
If serious injury were to happen regularly or at all for that matter as the reporters paraphrase one doctor we'd be paying thousands or tens of thousands of dollars each year in malpractice insurance instead of the $200 per year most therapists pay now throughout North America.
The statement that "She [the association director] said more cases like this were inevitable unless national guidelines are set." is likely a loose interpretation of the woman's comments by this reporter and is not backed by data from the medial or legal research literature.
I'm certainly sympathetic to this woman's situation, but to tie the stroke to a short relaxation massage requires a huge stretch of the imagination. I'm sorry the media has to take a sensationalist approach like this.
Regarding other comments in this thread, chair massage is a very accessible form of structured touch. It works well as a relaxation modality, but there is no reason why rehab work can be done in the chair as well. Deep work to the neck including the use of the elbow is okay unless there are contraindications. It would be virtually impossible to cause a tear to the vetebral artery through manual work alone. There was clearly a pre-existing condition that caused the woman to have this stroke. The relationship to the massage is purely co-incidental.
I hope the media in an attempt to boost ratings has not discouraged people from using massage and I hope this does not affect anyone's ability to practice in Austrailia.
All the best,
Eric Brown, Directorhttp://www.bodyworkbiz.com