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Massage Today
May, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 05

An Opportunity and a Double Cross

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

The recently passed stimulus bill has lots of interesting stuff in it. Several clauses of the bill deal with health care. There is $1.1 billion allocated to "comparative effectiveness research," looking at outcomes of different medical procedures.

Will this research embrace, or at least include, alternative therapies such as massage? Boy, could we score big if the studies are set up fairly. Who is representing our profession, and advocating that we be included?

The American Massage Therapy Association's (AMTA) government relation's person told me that they have a legislative tracking service in relation to massage. But she was unaware of HR 676 (see previous article, MT March 2009, for my discussion on this bill) or any clauses of the bailout or stimulus bills. However, they are sending a representative to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting soon.

An Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) spokesperson said they are very aware of the legislation and are closely monitoring the situation. They are optimistic that changes in health care regulations will include us and other alternative disciplines. They do not have a formal action program or policy in place at this writing but they are ready to work for us when they see an opportunity to do so. At least they are in the building and in the right room, taking notes.

A new kid on the block with great potential is the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC). It will be interesting to see what this group will be doing for us and other alternative disciplines in the future. They are already at the table, hard at work. Kudos to ABMP and IHPC! (More on IHPC in the July column.)

The transition to nationalized medicine will take several years, maybe longer. Will we be allowed into the new system? If not, will we be allowed to exist outside the system and still do therapy? How will the computerization of everyone's medical records affect us? Will we be part of it? Will we have access to it? Can our profession maintain its first-door provider status? Massage therapy as a wellness-based, alternative discipline cannot thrive if placed under gatekeeper supervision. (Access by prescription, and limited to only what is prescribed.) The PTs are already there, so where would we fall in the hierarchy?

The public is looking for alternatives to the current sickness-care system. The government is looking for more cost effective procedures since they are going to be picking up the bill. This is a perfect storm for our profession (and all the alternative professions) if we can get to the table and be heard. Massage therapy is the premier wellness modality and the most cost-effective, soft-tissue, pain-management therapy there is. It would be a crying shame if we get left out of the coming nationalized system as it is created just because no one was able to speak up and represent us. It is imperative that we get in on the early stages of any new health care system's development. Not just for the thousands of massage therapists, but for the millions of people we could help.

The Sucker Punch

While it is important to play ball in good faith with the government and the allopathic sickness-care industry, we must be aware at all times what the bureaucracy is up to so we can hopefully protect and defend our freedom to practice. Our profession has made a huge (for us) investment in research trying to validate what we do. It is important to study how massage works and its best applications. However, research is a double-edged sword, as this next report shNew FDA regulations are now threatening to ban any food supplement that has been researched in clinical trials. Currently, Section 201 of FDA regulations already prevents the marketing of dietary supplements which have been subject to published clinical studies, but only when they have also been the subject of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.

The FDA's unprecedented, controversial and ambiguous changes to regulations, may mean that all food products, including dietary supplements, could be barred from being marketed if they have been the subject of published clinical studies. Gretchen DuBeau, executive director of the American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF), explains further: "This would strangle innovation. It would create a 'Catch 22' situation in which supplement producers who undertake scientific research on new supplements will find that their very research will lead to a ban on the proposed supplement." 

It appears they are going after Stevia initially, a natural, zero-calorie sweetener, which is considered a threat by the giant sugar and artificial-sweetener industries.

See how we are being sucker-punched here? We are told that claims of effectiveness cannot be made without research to back it up - never mind clinical observation for several hundred years. It has to be current valid "research." They thought that would prevent the alternative health community from being able to make any claims because we could not afford to do the research. Now that research is being done that threatens pharmaceutical sales, they will ban the sale of products proven to be effective, classifying them as "drugs" that must be controlled for the "safety of the public." We are in a period of time where the mindset will be that the sacrifice of the individual for the good of the group is considered necessary. That's all well and good, unless you are an individual.

How does this apply to massage? Glad you asked. Those of us in alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture are told we need research to validate what we know to be true. Research is now proving us right. Will they now take our research and ban us from doing procedures with which we get positive results? Would they do that? Will we get sucker punched by research, like the supplement industry just has been? Let's hope not. However, they justify human suffering in the name of profit. Where is the profit? Not in massage or other alternative therapies. We cannot follow the allopathic model and be an alternative to it at the same time. Health care freedom is something we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we once had.

All conditions in the physical begin as discordant thoughts and emotions in the mind. The physical condition distracts us from perceiving and recognizing the mental disturbance. For true healing to take place, the mind must be illumined to its part in the condition. Until the causative thought pattern, usually subconscious, is changed, the symptoms will return. Mind-body healing is the cutting edge of health care. Massage can bring about awareness on more than just a physical level. Be a teacher, particularly of awareness of the self.

We live in interesting times. See you in the July issue for America's birthday.

Click here for more information about Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB.


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