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Massage Today
September, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 09

Newton’s Second Law: F = M x A

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

In previous articles, I have used Newton's Laws of Motion, specifically the first and third laws, as metaphors for how we can create positive change in our personal lives, our respective practices and the massage industry as a whole.

During this year's Florida State Massage Therapy Association convention, people asked me when I was going to talk about Newton's second law. Well, as it happens, the timing couldn't be better, because we need to create ripples in our profession and that's what Newton's second law is all about.

To review, the first law states, "Every object [mass] in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it."1 An example I used in a previous article, "The Power of a Minute," states that if there is an area of your life or practice that is like a still pond, then you need to stir it up and create some ripples by throwing some stones in the water. You wish to change and an internal "force" must motivate you to action. Newton's third law of motion states, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."2 This concept I relate to cause and effect with the stones being the cause and the ripples being the effect.

Newton's second law relates to the behavior of an object when existing forces are unbalanced; it states that the acceleration or movement of an object is dependent upon two variables: the mass of the object and the net force acting upon the object.3 Essentially, F = Force; M = Mass; and A = Acceleration, which means F = M x A. Once again, this concept offers a perfect analogy for the massage industry, as it relates to one very important concept: research.

M = Mass

In the massage profession, mass stands for us, the massage therapists, the mass of the profession. And as a profession, our numbers (mass) are large. Just as we comprise a mass, there is an even larger mass of people desperate to learn more about the benefits of massage through research. Preliminary studies indicate that masses of people would benefit from receiving regular massage therapy. In fact, there are plenty of people out there getting massage and not disclosing it to their medical providers because the medical profession still has not fully embraced massage as an adjunct to health care; this is, in part, because research remains in short supply.

We see daily the life-changing results massage has on our patients. But we need more industry research to validate our knowledge and draw even more of the masses to massage. While we're certainly making progress in the field of massage research, we would definitely benefit from additional research. There are many other professions with far fewer people, yet whose research base is more widely encompassing than that of the massage industry. If industries with a smaller number of professionals can produce a steady flow of research, then we in the massage industry - a profession large in number - also should be able to produce a more influential research base.

A = Acceleration

Acceleration equals movement, or action. In this case, we need to accelerate our efforts in the area of research. But acceleration only occurs when we take action. So how can we as therapists help accelerate massage research efforts? To begin, the acceleration of research is funded by the burning of fuel, which we call money. Research requires money - and lots of it. This is where our actions come into play.

Philanthropy - According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, the word philanthropic is defined as: 1) Showing kindness, charitable concern and generosity toward other people; 2) Devoted to helping other people, especially through giving charitable aid.4

You don't have to be a Rockefeller to be a philanthropist. In fact, it doesn't take much more than a creative mind and some ingenuity. Here are some ideas.

At the upcoming American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) national convention in Cincinnati, I will be encouraging conference attendees and exhibitors to stop by the "Sanctuary," where attendees can pay to receive an energizing massage with the proceeds donated to the Massage Therapy Foundation to promote massage research.

Encourage your patients to purchase a "gift certificate" for research. You will then mail the money to the foundation or any other institution that supports massage research.

Host a massage benefit at your clinic or spa, with proceeds going to support massage research.

Recruit participants through your local massage association chapter or partner with others in the community such as hospitals or community service centers.

Donate personal time and/or resources for the benefit of research. At the upcoming AMTA convention, I will be partnering with Hygenic/ Performance Health and Massage Warehouse, a Scrip company. Together, we are offering 50 packages called "Massage Therapy Research Special." This includes one of my home study programs with a photo manual, a Biofreeze masters package and all proceeds will be donated to the Massage Therapy Foundation. Only 50 packages are available so stop by the Massage Warehouse booth to pick up your package.

Playing on a phrase from President John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your Massage Therapy Profession can do for you ... Ask what you can do for your Massage Therapy Profession." The more money we raise as philanthropists, the more fuel we have and the more action we take. These efforts produce a greater force for massage industry research so the benefits of massage are understood and delivered to those in need.

F = Force

The action of raising money produces the acceleration of massage research and that is dependent upon our mass as an industry and the amount of force we use to create movement. We need our mass to bring about acceleration - to take action. Massage certainly is a force to be reckoned with because it has the ability to increase one's health and quality of life; it also has the ability to decrease one's dependence on pain killers and prescription drugs, as well as traditional health care in general.

One such force in the industry is Dr. Tiffany Field with the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, School of Medicine. Dr. Field has dedicated her career to studying the effects of touch therapy and has subsequently accelerated research in the industry with powerful results. Over the years, Dr. Field's research has discovered that massage "facilitates weight gain in preterm infants, enhances attentiveness, alleviates depressive symptoms, reduces pain, reduces stress hormones and improves immune function."5

But we need even more research and we aren't fueling it with money fast enough; therefore, we need to create a bigger force that influences greater change. Remember, an object in motion can either bounce off of or penetrate another object depending on the forces placed upon it. As a profession, we need to penetrate the greater world of health care through more forceful massage research.

A Little Bit More About Force: The Butterfly Effect

The so-called Butterfly Effect "is the propensity of a system to be sensitive to initial conditions...this idea gave rise to the notion of a butterfly flapping its wings in one area of the world, causing a tornado or some such weather event to occur in another remote area of the world."6 It doesn't take much for a mass to create a force that causes acceleration. Imagine the possibilities of what could happen if every one of us in the profession flapped our wings in an organized fashion with our time, money and resources. We would have a profound effect on generating additional massage therapy research, as well as educating the world-at-large about the wide-reaching benefits of massage.

It's time for us to apply Newton's second law and become a stronger force in health care. The massage industry must Accelerate the funding to create a Mass of research that will validate and generate the powerful Force we already know massage therapy possesses. Then health care will understand, support and encourage the use of massage therapy.

I'd love to hear your ideas for taking action to bring about positive change. Drop me a line at or visit for more ideas.


  1. "Newton's Three Laws of Motion."
  2. Ibid.
  4. Encarta World English Dictionary, 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
  5. Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, School of Medicine.

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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