Reality Check Massage Research Expectations

Reality Check Massage Research Expectations
by Selena Belisle, Founder/Instructor, CE Institute LLC

As evidence-based massage becomes more prevalent in the massage and bodywork industry, we've seen a growing number of LMTs dismiss an increasing number of studies due to perceived study deficiencies.  Sometimes these dismissals are for good reason, and sometimes the dismissals of research are for reasons that do not seem to be fully understood nor appreciated.  Here's some examples:

Health Care and Medicine Does Not Provide 100% Cures for All
There are no absolutes, such as any method being 100% effective in health care practices. That is just unheard of and an unreasonable expectation in the healthcare arena given human factors and variables. As such, many massage and health care studies will adopt soft language that generalizes conclusions, without absolute certainties. Expecting a study to conclude more than a generalization is arbitrary.  Massage therapists should not be seeking hard language that massage cured something, or was proven without a doubt, given the many human variables that will prevent this for the entire study population.

Summary Study Language: Additional Research is Suggested or Needed
Do not be surprised or alarmed when authors call for additional research on their studied topic at the end of their massage or bodywork research. This is common, and borderline standard language. Ongoing research is vital to continue learning and growing.

A Low Number of Subjects in Massage Research
Most massage-related research studies have a low number of subjects and other values that could decrease the opinion of the study. Please do not immediately throw the baby out with the bath water with perceived study deficiencies. The massage industry does not have multi-billion-dollar corporations funding research. 
Researched methods cannot be rendered ineffective solely due to a low number of subjects or when a study uses comparisons. 
Massage research should never be arrogantly dismissed or disrespected due to limited financial constraints or unachievable standards.
Working from Massage Research, Even When It's Poor Quality
Massage therapists can advance their practice by working from research, and almost all research is valuable despite some study deficiencies.  Studies can provide valuable information even when they are poorly designed. We ask LMTs to not immediately dismiss a massage research study without using whatever usable data can be extracted from the work.  Anyone who lazily dismisses an entire research for a repeated singular reason is usually just that - lazy.  Maybe a dismissive professional is not trying to collect as much data as possible and only seeking some perfect match, which is regularly unassailable. So, I have to tell you, after decades of massage practice, we should take whatever we can use and build upon it. That would be best practices when using research.  
We also recommend therapists to try new protocols and methods in a professional CE class, or with friends or family prior to executing on paying clients. To make this perfectly clear, we're not suggesting to use everything found in research unless you're creating a do's and dont's list or conducting some research of your own. To the contrary, research should be used in clear and concise controlled methods, beyond simply seeking some perfect conclusion or result.
We recommend massage therapists learn more about the research process to truly know how and why they can use certain pieces of research.  Some protocol/methods could be valuable to practice, even when a study has not been properly designed or performed. At the very least, massage therapists can collect new hands-on therapy sequences to practice on their own or as needed, and when it is appropriate to do so.
You can this and more by registering for training with us at:
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