The potential benefits of massage therapy are well known. Many people seek massage as a way to relax, relieve muscle tension, and reduce stress. But the medical community is increasingly accepting massage therapy as an important component of traditional healthcare, using it for everything from sports injuries to oncology. Massage therapists now operate their own practices, work in wellness centers, and see patients in medical centers and hospitals across the country.
While the scientific consensus on the benefits of massage is still developing, there is a growing number of studies and trials on the techniques and outcomes of massage therapy. With this expanding body of research, “evidence based massage” has become a frequently used term in the massage world. But what does evidence based massage mean?
Massage Therapy Based on Evidence
The definition of evidence based massage may vary between individuals, but essentially it means that the massage therapist uses established research to determine how to work with clients or patients.
A massage therapist who practices evidence based massage will still interview the client/patient and/or review their medical information to determine their needs, concerns, and desired outcomes. But before they begin their work, they will use a combination of their expertise and training along with established research to select the best course of action.
For example, a massage therapist might review the literature regarding the impact of massage on patients undergoing substance abuse treatment, or specific methods used to treat a client’s lower back pain. Because studies on massage have been conducted for some time, there is a growing library of resources to scour for evidence.
Once the massage therapist has found evidence backing the effectiveness of massage for a specific problem, or specific methods to use with their client/patient, they can begin their work.
The Ongoing Effort to Increase Evidence
Evidence based massage is limited, of course, when there is a lack of research. But just because a certain methodology isn’t properly researched doesn't mean it’s ineffective or invalid; it simply means that the research into that topic isn’t developed yet.
That’s why the Massage Therapy Foundation pushes to advance research on therapeutic massage and bodywork, promote research literacy among massage professionals, and support the massage therapy profession as a whole.
The greater the body of research on massage, the more informed massage therapists, the medical community, and the public at large can be. Researchers, massage therapists, and medical professionals can all play a role in advancing massage therapy to help clients and patients achieve better outcomes.
By Brian Acton