The latest buzz words to hit the massage profession are ‘evidence based massage therapy’ referring to the fact that there are various levels of evidence within the available research that we have on massage therapy. Having an evidence based massage business means you are using the best methods according to research – the little research that we have and the other challenges we have with researching massage therapy.
How do you measure massage therapy and the quality of touch in a research study? In research, the massage therapist is often a nurse or other practitioner and the study will use the same type of massage therapy on everyone – 15 minutes on the back of the trunk and legs, 15 minutes on the front of the legs and feet, 15 minutes on the arms/hands and 15 minutes on the neck/shoulders except NO one does a massage like that!
The Massage Therapy Foundation clarifies ‘evidence-informed or based practice.
It is a three-part process of clinical decision-making, or a three footed stool, if you like.
First Leg: The Client’s Values
What are your client’s goals? What are her priorities for the time you spend together? Are there things she really wants to avoid?
Second Leg: The Practitioner’s Judgment
Part of evidence-informed practice is relying on our own training, experience, and expertise. It is inevitable that our own background will inform the choices that we make with our clients.
Third Leg: What Does The Research Say?
So evidence based or evidence informed practice also includes information and feedback from the client as well as the individual practitioners judgement. Each massage therapist has very different training and background and will work with clients in different ways. As far as what does the research say? Since there research we have is limited, we have to go on what we have for now. To me this means that the practitioner experience and clients values will have a bigger role to play in the success or lack of success in session outcomes. This website will include all three and will cite the level of evidence that we do have for each topic. Here is more on the levels of evidence.
Levels of Evidence
The strongest level of research meaning the research that has the most punch is called a meta-analysis which takes an in depth look at all the available research on a topic and decides whether it is a recommended procedure based on the available evidence (what we know) and the data is combined to produce an overall statistic. If there isn’t enough evidence to validate a procedure, more research is recommended.
The systematic review is the second strongest level of research and that gathers all of the research studies that we do have with the goal of reducing bias and to answer a yes or no question.
Randomized Control Studies are the third highest group of evidence and is comprised of research participants are randomly placed into groups and there is one group that does not receive the treatment. Large RCTs provide important, high-quality knowledge and serve as the foundation for more research.
Cohort Studies take a group of people (cohort) study them over a period of time (years) and collect data to find patterns or information on the disease or condition they are studying. People are observed without any interference from the researchers.
Case reports and case series are individual cases by individual therapists usually on a specific topic, disease or condition. A case series is ongoing sessions on a specific person with a specific disease or condition. These usually lead to more research.