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Massage Today
September, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 09

Research Goldmines For You and Your Client

By Rita Woods, LMT

As therapists, we see clients with a variety of medical conditions. While their condition may not be directly related to their massage visit, it may impact how we individualize a massage session.

Medical information can be complex so it's important to find sources that give an accurate and well-defined explanation without being confusing. It's also nice to find information that you can print and share.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people's health and save lives, NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent disease as well as the causes, treatments, and even cures for common and rare diseases. Composed of 27 institutes and centers, the NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world. Funded by Congress, the NIH offers information free to the public and to researchers. In fact, if the researchers use federal funds from NIH, they must make their manuscripts available through PubMed Central, a service of the National Library of Medicine. Here, massage therapists will find an absolute goldmine at their fingertips. However, to navigate through the volumes of information, a little understanding of how the departments make their information available is necessary.

MedlinePlus and PubMed are the National Library of Medicine's databases of references to more than 16 million articles published in 5,200 biomedical journals. Most of the articles you will find listed in PubMed ( are written for health professionals. Many of the articles are short summaries (abstracts) and some of them have links to the full article. These tend to be quite technical from a medical/clinical perspective and thus, may not be the best choice for providing information to your client. However, they are helpful if you like to dig deep into the subject. Some NIH departments do offer printable handouts suitable for your clients as well as references in your office.

For the massage professional, one department in particular is very helpful. That is the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) ( Once at that site, you can search by topic. They offer information in a format called "Fast Facts," which is about four pages long and covers just the highlights of a health topic. They also have "Handout on Health"; these tend to be longer (some as long as 50 pages) and much more detailed with many of them offering anatomical illustrations. Most topics are available online, some include audio presentations, but some topics are only available by ordering the text directly from the NIH. There is an online order form for Handout on Health publications. There is no cost to order information and you can even order multiple copies for health fairs and such. Some information comes as an information packet. (Carpal tunnel syndrome is one example.)

Many of the NIAMS publications are government publications. They are in the public domain and not subject to copyright restrictions. You may make as many copies of these as you wish without permission. Please credit NIAMS as the source.

Let's take a detailed look at how to search and what you might find there. First go to the NIH home page, Once there, look for the search box in the upper right corner, and type in "Fast Facts." This will bring up a series of topics that appear as their own Web address. Scroll through to find topics of interest. Fast Facts are easy to read publications for the general public. Examples found there: bursitis and tendonitis, back pain, sports injuries, fibromalygia, sprains and strains, healthy joints for a lifetime, plus over 1,300 more! Many are PDF files that can be saved on your computer for later access.

On the same Web site, you can type in that same search box "Handout on Health." Similar to the Fast Facts layout, you will get a list of topics that appear with their own specific Web page address. If you plan on printing any of these, be prepared to print a booklet. They are long with much more detail and some even include self care recommendations. Many topics are duplicated in the Fast Facts and Handout on Health formats, it just depends on how much information you want.

Another helpful site from the National Library of Medicine is MedlinePlus offers easy to understand medical information in everyday language. Here I found interactive tutorials published by the Patient Education Institute. You can even ask permission to link to the tutorials. This could be especially useful if you have your own Web site. They offer over 165 tutorials and I was thrilled to see "massage therapy" included. When you go to the home page of MedlinePlus, look for "Interactive Tutorials" on the right-hand side. Click there to find the list and to view the presentations. These are especially helpful for clients with no medical background. The beauty is that you have something to offer your clients, it is free for you to use and it adds a professional advantage for your business. Searching for topics in MedlinePlus offers additional sites other than the NIH. For example, you may find information sheets from the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, the CDC, as well as associations like the Arthritis Foundation.

All in all, I have to give the NIH two thumbs up for their Web sites and ease of access to the public. It's a good place to go for reliable information, and for us to see what our government dollars are going to in medical research. By the way, the NIH also has the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM); here you will find information of herbs, acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, Reiki and a whole lot more. Visit for more information. An interesting fact: This department has been in existence for 10 years while the NIH can trace its roots back to 1887.

Our clients look to us for information and advice. Often they are asking us questions outside our scope of practice. Even if we know the answer, we should never offer advice that may be perceived as medical advice. Having valuable information at your fingertips allows you to direct them to credible sources and/or offer handouts in your office. Be sure not to attach any personal information to the handout and leave it as originally published.

Stay Cool. Be Happy.

Click here for previous articles by Rita Woods, LMT.


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