Massage Research Literacy

What is research?

Research is a conversation that builds knowledge over time.  It is a way of taking all of our stories from our hands on work and putting it into a format that can help us to make sense of what massage does and what we are doing in our daily massage practice.   It is asking questions in a very particular way that is objective (free of bias, facts and opinions).   It also has to be reproducible by others and get the same results – that would be good!  It allows research to build on itself and go forward to the next steps.

Levels of Evidence

It is all about the levels of evidence and the strength/impact of the research.  Not all research is good research! Research that shows something works on a high number of people is better.  Research that also reduces bias is better.

The highest level of evidence is shown in systematic reviews such as a metaanalysis that collects info from many research studies and makes meaning of all the research on a topic.

A Randomized controlled Trial (RCT) is the next highest level – the Gold Standard as it is called.  There is a control group that separates the question from the study. It has to be random as in you put names in a hat and pick participants.  One group gets the massage and one group gets no treatment.   It’s random!

Pilot studies are usually done with 30 people and will usually tell us that we need more studies on a specific area.

Case Reports/Case Studies are the stories from our clinical work so others can begin to understand what it is that you do.  A case series can also be done on a few clients with the same issues like all of them have headaches or back pain or one issue.   You can’t prove anything with a case report but it is a very good place to start.  One of the most famous findings was in a case report – Five Young Men with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.

 Why is Research important for the massage profession?

One of the main reasons for doing research is so that we will have the best methods and techniques for clients to be able to help them more.   The more we know, the better our sessions can be or so it is said by many of the researchers.

The other main reason is that many insurance companies are requiring us to show them more research in order for massage to be covered by health insurance.

Health insurance companies do not really understand that allowing massage would help save them money.  They still  have the idea that they would be paying the massage therapist $1000  and also having to pay for surgery (an additional 20k rough guess). From what I have seen here in WA with being one of the only states where it is a mandate that insurance companies cover massage is that doctors still do not really understand the benefits of massage.  In general, they will prescribe massage for back/neck pain but don’t really send people with larger complaints like carpal tunnel or thoracic outlet syndrome.