To the Massage Researchers

One of the problems I see from attending the research conference (2010 Seattle) and thinking about research is that there seems to be more than just a vocabulary problem in understanding research and using it to create evidence based practices and to use research to get and keep clients.

Whitney Lowe touched on it in his closing keynote address. The big thing is motivation – what is in it for me (the intuitive, caring, empathetic, massage therapist?) What is in it for my clients?  How will it make their lives better or make me a better massage therapist?   After attending the conference and seeing many great research studies (half of which I don’t know what they were talking about) I am not going to be changing anything in the way I do massage or talk to people about massage in my efforts to get and keep clients.  Whitney also talked about his passion for taking research and trying to implement it into his practice. It did make me want to learn more about that as his passion is really contagious!

To me I don’t have any interest in doing that.  I have been doing massage full time for 23 years (at this time in 2010–now 33years in 2020) and like what I am doing and it seems to work fine for most people.

The biggest question that I have for researchers is SO WHAT? 

Why do I need proof that massage works for back pain or reduces anxiety?  I already know that and see the evidence in my practice everyday.   I also use this question when working with massage therapists who are trying to explain what it is that they do -the so called benefits of massage.  Clients don’t care about the benefits of massage which are usually nicely listed on their websites – reduces inflammation, increases circulation. (Tracy Walton also once said that the benefits of massage are not really scientifically proven to be valid!  You also can’t say that things are proven because one or two or even 20 studies doesn’t make it so!)

The whole time during the conference I kept thinking of a really good book I am reading for the second time “Made to Stick” by Dan Heath.  He talks about something he calls the Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – you forget that you used to know nothing about something and all the knowledge that you have gained makes you sound so smart but it doesn’t help you connect with others and ‘make your idea stick’.  Once you know something it is hard to imagine what it was like before you didn’t know.  Sharing knowledge is difficult and nearly impossible when you are not able to put yourself in the listeners shoes!  Of course you can’t unlearn what you now know but I can’t help but think that you could reach more massage therapists and the general public when you keep that concept in mind.

I know there is also a lot of talk and efforts going into teaching research methods to massage therapists and how is that going to happen.  There are more and more classes being taught on that and massage schools are trying to figure out how to put it into their curriculum.  But I still say So What?  Will taking 50 hours of research methods help people get and keep clients?  They won’t be able to take the classes in a CE format unless they are making enough money to do so.  Yes I am making this all about money but it seems to be the challenge of many massage therapists – just trying to get by and make a living.

So my challenge to the many massage researchers, people talking about research is to start at the beginning (like with Science Literacy first updated 11/25/2020 ) and start telling and showing people why research is important. 

How will having research help the average intuitive, empathetic, caring massage therapist be more successful?  Or I guess maybe it isn’t the researchers job to make their work more applicable but maybe more of the profession – the  Massage Therapy Foundation and other massage research groups and other people who are not researchers but just love research. ( I met a bunch at the conference!)

Ok and the other thing is where are all the researchers blogs or websites?  I couldn’t find any anywhere which is another interesting thing.  That seems to me like they are just doing the research for themselves and not even wanting to connect with the people who they are doing the research for.  So if there are websites out there let me know.  I do know of a few sites being done my people who are massage therapists and are interested in research- and a Bodhi Haraldssons Blog on Evidence (now offline in 2020) Based Practice and this massage research blog (now offline in 2020) who I can’t quite figure out who is the author.

The best site to find research related to massage is at the Massage Therapy Foundation’s website but it doesn’t help break it all down into usable information.

My favorite study in massage is the Meta Analysis of Massage Research by C.A. Moyer (who I got to meet and didn’t even really get that it was his research until now when I started writing this post!) It came out in 2004 but at the time there were a lot of people talking about it and there was also a good article about it in Massage and Bodywork Magazine that helped me understand what it really meant for the profession.  You can read the whole study on

So maybe this isn’t so much to the massage researchers because they are busy doing massage research – but to the massage profession: 

Can you please make massage research more understandable?
Can you start with why is research important to the massage profession?

  I am sort of getting an idea why but am still very mixed about the whole thing. I’ll probably write another post on that later today or this week.  But now off to the spa and the far infrared saunas which there is some research on that looks promising (or so they say – I couldn’t find anything with a 2 minute search! ha!)  But I still love it and will go!

Updated 11/25/2020 to correct broken links and add dates.

09/18/2021 update. We still have a huge split in the profession with the skeptics and evidence based/informed groups who continue to make fun of and antagonize massage therapists who choose to practice differently from them. Honestly, I do not know what massage therapists who claim they are evidence based/informed are doing differently than those who are not except for they explain things differently. What if all massage therapists just started being more open about what they are doing and if you are doing Reiki or Reflexology or other things the skeptics frown on and say these are traditions types of therapies and the evidence for these things is scant and have not been studied.