Research endeavors in the field of massage therapy are growing substantially in number, quality and importance.
Like any treatment, massage therapy can and should be studied using rigorous scientific methods.
So, how do you conduct research within the field of massage therapy?
At its essence, research is a formalized and structured process of curiosity.
You should ask: Is that a random experience? Can it be replicated; is this true for other people as well? Is it dependent on the manner in which we addressed the tissue? Is it dose or frequency dependent?
These are the questions to ask in the effort to refine your research skills and serve your patients effectively.
Research in massage therapy offers our profession a way to formally explore these questions.
Like drug-efficacy research (the placebo pill can be made to look identical to the real pill), a “sham” type of treatment can be developed for researching massage therapy (i.e. light touch massage); however, it can’t be assumed to be completely devoid of therapeutic effects. However, just because a randomized clinical trial can’t be placebo-controlled or double-blinded, doesn’t mean it can’t be of high quality and contribute to the greater scientific knowledge.
What areas are being researched?
As massage therapy has many purported benefits, research has or is being conducted on a wide range of patients with a variety of conditions. Most of the research to date has included small, preliminary studies that lack the methodological quality to draw firm conclusions regarding massage therapy’s effectiveness.
However, in recent years, larger studies of higher quality have begun to emerge, as have thorough and balanced reviews of the existing literature (i.e. systematic reviews), which evaluate the effectiveness of massage therapy.
Every discipline has gaps in its knowledge base. Massage therapy research endeavors to show other disciplines that you are self-reflective, honestly examining your strengths and weaknesses to serve the public in the best way possible.
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