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News in Brief
National Chiropractic Health Month: Be Proactive; Collegiate Roundup: Academic Appointments at Parker, Logan.
Why Young People Need Chiropractic Now More Than Ever
According to a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, "It is now widely acknowledged that neck pain (NP), mid back pain (MBP), and low back pain (LBP) (spinal pain) start early in life and that the lifetime prevalence increases rapidly during adolescence to reach adult levels at the age of 18."
New Medical Technologies You Need to Know
We're all familiar with how fast computers become obsolete, as well as the rapid pace of development in the field of cell phone technology. The latest smart phones are far more powerful than desktop computers were only a few years ago.
Finders Keepers: The Secret to Relationship-Based Marketing
Becoming a successful practitioner has less to do with what you learned in school, and more to do with your ability to find new patients and keep them!
Chiropractic Research in Review
Chiropractic Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis; Cost / Benefit Analysis: Different Doses of SMT for Low Back Pain; Imaging for Occult Rib and Costal Cartilage Fractures; Treating Neck Pain: Thoracic Thrust Manipulation vs. Non-Thrust Mobilization.
Peer Points: Always Seeking To Grow
Ellen "Kiki" Geary has spent the last decade honing her craft. As a specialist in integrative holistic care, she went straight from completing her master's degree in acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine from Bastyr University to building a successful and thriving practice in the small community of Anacortes, Washington.
CCE Finally Takes a "Baby Step" Toward Reform
During a 16-month period from October 2010 to February 2012, I devoted four separate columns to the heavy-handed attempt by the Council on Chiropractic Education to radically change the chiropractic profession through the accreditation process.
A Vibrating Capsule for Constipation? Relevance to Your Chiropractic Practice
The relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) complaints and back pain is not typically written about or discussed.
Don't Turn a 2 Into a 10
The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale1 is so useful because it can be used by almost anyone. Patients can use the numbers associated with the faces depicted on the scale or select the face that demonstrates their current level of pain from 0-10.
Pain Underfoot: Metatarsalgia
Foot pain can interfere significantly with normal activities and severely limit participation in sports. Metatarsalgia is foot pain involving the metatarsal bones in the forefoot – the complaint of pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot.
9 Common Causes of Thyroid Imbalance and How You Can Help
How you sleep, how easily you wake up, and how much energy and stamina you have during the day are directly related to levels of the thyroid hormones.
Building From the Bottom Up
I caught up with my dear friend Honora Wolfe, in her Colorado painting studio where, if she is not praying in Bhutan or doing charitable work in a Nepali free clinic, she spends most of her time now.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part III
Part 1 and Part II of this series focused on the physical aspect of the Heart and mental emotional aspects of the Heart respectively. Now, I would like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the Heart.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
A Guide for Talking to Doctors about Acupuncture and Brain Chemistry
Before I begin any discussion of how to talk about the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry, nervous and endocrine function, it is essential to understand just what physicians most need help with.
A Chinese Medicine Story: An Interview with Mazin Al-Khafaji
Mazin Al-Khafaji's work has interested me for years. In February 2014, we invited him for the second time to speak at the Southwest Symposium in Austin, Texas.
MPA Media Wins 7 Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Dynamic Chiropractic and DC Practice Insights, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecedented seven publishing awards by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
December, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 12
Pediatric Massage Study Finds Surprising Results
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
I had the great pleasure of attending the American Massage Therapy Association National Convention in Minneapolis this year, and hearing a panel discuss pediatric massage research. Among the presenters was Dr. Sean Phipps, a psychologist and researcher at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.He presented a large study of massage and humor therapy in children undergoing stem cell transplant (SCT).1 Stem cell transplant is typically used to treat certain types of cancer and blood diseases. It is a rigorous procedure, with multiple medical risks to the patient.
This is an important and useful study for a number of reasons:
I'll leave the explanation and importance of the first two points to the various resources in massage research literacy.2 Instead, I want to focus here on the last point, that the study observed NO effect from massage or humor therapy in pediatric SCT patients. The audience was understandably surprised, and some of us were stunned. What happened?
The study staff recruited 178 pediatric SCT patients. Because stem cell transplant is notoriously strong treatment, associated with high degrees of distress for patients and families, the study looked at both patient- and parent-targeted interventions. This was not the first time the group attempted research in this area; Previous, smaller studies had documented the feasibility and appeal of massage and humor therapy,3 and had even suggested some benefit to warrant this further study, which was a larger scale, NIH-funded controlled trial.
The patients, aged 6-18, were randomized into three arms. One was a child-targeted intervention composed of massage and humor therapy. Another group received the child-targeted intervention in addition to a parent-targeted intervention that involved massage and relaxation/imagery. The third group, the control group, received only standard medical care.
A standard massage routine was provided by professional massage therapists, with the intended dose set at three half-hour sessions per week for 4 weeks, beginning at 1 week before transplant. The actual average massage dose turned out to be 8.8 sessions over the course of the study, as timing and other logistics often affect the actual amount delivered. The researchers measured somatic distress, mood disturbance, length of hospitalization, the time to engraftment (for the transplant to "take") and the use of opioid pain relievers and antiemetics (antinausea drugs).
As stated above, the investigators found that massage therapy and humor therapy made no difference in any of the outcomes. The patients' experiences of SCT appeared to be unchanged by these two complementary therapies. Even the addition of the parent-targeted therapy, in which the designated parent received massage on the same schedule as the child, along with relaxation therapy, seemed to make no difference. In fact, Dr. Phipps showed graphs of the three groups that were almost identical. Changes in mood and distress measures did occur in all three groups over the course of 4 weeks, but they were typical ups and downs over the course of the procedure. During SCT, the mood and distress measures get worse before they get better, and the patterns were the same in all three groups.
There were no differences in the medical outcomes, either. The time to engraftment, length of hospital stay, and use of pain relievers and antiemetics were surprisingly similar across the three groups.
What Do We Make Of This?
The study authors admitted being surprised by the results, and even disappointed. One important quality in a research paper is humility, and the authors were quick to point out possible limitations in the study design: perhaps they weren't measuring exactly the right outcomes, or the timing of the measurements was not perfect. The age range of 6-18 years in their patient may have been too broad to fully standardize the treatments. They also report that the results of a single study--theirs--is not sufficient for firm conclusions. More studies, from additional researchers, are needed before we can determine whether to advise massage for this population.
One of the most potent observations in this paper, and in the talk that I heard, was that the standard medical care during SCT has improved much in the past years, and that patient distress is so well-managed that it is difficult to improve upon it with massage. In fact, levels of distress in the study sample were quite low to begin with, and throughout the study. While SCT-related distress still exists, it may be that standard medical care is already reducing it to the lowest levels possible, and massage cannot be expected to take it any further.
I was impressed by the care taken in this project, by the findings, and by the reflections of the investigator. I have a few of my own thoughts to add to discussion:
First, it is important for researchers to publish work like this, when the outcomes do not meet the researcher's hypothesis. If we reported only the "good" or "bad" news in massage research (a problem called publication bias), then it would hold back the science of massage, and take longer to learn its true impact. I hope that other massage therapy trade publications also report on these findings, as disappointing as they are, so that the news is balanced.
Second, as much as I might wish for massage to have an effect in this population, the science and my own wishful thinking are two separate things. Massage is powerful therapy, but it is unlikely to be a cure-all. If it really is true that massage has no significant effect on a given population, we need to know that. As a profession, it's important to know if massage is less effective in some populations than in others. If it is, we can direct our study and practice where we know it is effective. Perhaps other patient populations are more responsive to massage, or there are places where the medical management of a condition falls short, and massage could play a larger role. If so, perhaps we should focus our efforts there. This would not mean denying massage to people undergoing SCT. Instead, it would mean that we continue to study the impact of massage, learn where it's most effective, and make sure we act on that information.
Finally, I am interested in the massage design and dose. I have to ask, in this and other studies, whether the massage dose is sufficient to bring about a change? Do we need to schedule daily massage in some populations, so that after logistics have taken their toll, the participants end up receiving 4-5 sessions per week? If so, would 4-5 sessions per week be sufficient, or too much? Does scheduling massage at certain points compromise its effectiveness, and, instead, it should be provided on demand the way some pain medications are administered? Are certain massage strokes, or body areas of focus essential for massage to be effective?
As disappointing as these results were, the study offers an important contribution to the body of research. I am not ready to abandon massage of SCT patients, nor do the investigators suggest that we should. But the study asks good questions. I am grateful to the investigators for their care, expertise, and clear reporting. As good research, this study invites further reflection, discussion, and, of course, more research.
Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.
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