resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
News in Brief
A Moment of Silence for Dr. Stephen Press; New ACA President Elected; F4CP Offers New MemBership Benefit.
Filling the Gap: The Role of Alternative Practitioners in a Broken Health Care System
I have been asked many times what got me into alternative medicine. My answer is simple: I want to truly help and make a difference in people's health.
Constructing Our Reality: The Primary Channels and Perception, Part 1
My favorite topic of discussion within Chinese medicine is the acupuncture channel systems. First of all, each of us have them. They are part of our bodies; not something external to us. To learn about the acupuncture channels is to learn about ourselves.
Energy: For Life and For Death
Energy is a deep topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is understood to underlie all of existence, animated or not, and the qi of the living is studied with special attention.
Roots in the Community, Branches Far Beyond
The Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine (JTS) was founded in 1998 by Sean Christian Marshall in Sugar Grove, North Carolina, a small community near Boone in the state's westernmost mountains.
Health and Wellness Partnership
Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Wellness Center at the LAC + USC Historic General Hospital recently joined forces to extend care to the residents of Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.
Transparency is Key at ASA First Annual Meeting
On March 4th and 5th the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) held a successful first annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Recording and Appropriate Billing of Timed Physical Medicine Services
There is a common misunderstanding about timed therapy services and although you do have some knowledge of timed service documentation, based on your comment on the 8-minute rule, your understanding is correct, but incomplete.
The Art of Listening
One of the most important clinical concepts for me was voiced by the legendary physician William Osler. "Listen to your patient, he/she is telling you the diagnosis." After treating literally thousands of patients, it can become almost second nature to quickly discover clues which reveal the underlying diagnosis.
The IME System: A Current Public Health Risk and Solutions That Are Working
I strongly believe in the independent medical examination (IME) system. There are far too many doctors in every profession who are not following E&M protocols and never claim MMI (maximum medical improvement) has occurred for their patients, which has caused financial stress for many private and public carriers.
How to Find and Fix TL Nerve Impingements
The thoracolumbar junction (TLJ) and the peripheral sensory nerves that exit from it are frequent, important and rarely recognized sources of lower back, pelvic and hip pain. Let's outline a clear exam protocol for diagnosing the problem.
Asking Patients the Right Questions
When was the last time you asked a patient a question? Maybe 30 seconds ago? But, are you asking the right questions to elicit valuable and useful information? As a healthcare provider, you've likely spent hundreds of hours learning to ask the right questions to gather critical health information from your patients.
Musculoskeletal Disorders Take Center Stage
Looking for the latest on the musculoskeletal pain epidemic and the increasing premium placed on preventive strategies including chiropractic? Check out The Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Americans – Opportunities for Action.
The Power of Eccentric Exercise: Hamstring Injury Prevention and Rehab
For almost 20 years, I've worked with professional athletes who make a living by running really fast. It goes without saying that hamstring injury (HSI) prevention and rehabilitation is a big part of what they expect from a sports chiropractor.
An Interview with Amanda Shayle
JW: Can you share with us some of your history and how you became an acupuncturist? What did you do prior to becoming an acupuncturist? Where did you go to school?
Vitamin D Fails to Help Knee OA? The Proper Perspective
The March 8, 2016 issue of JAMA includes a study about vitamin D supplementation for osteoarthritis of the knee. This is a really weird study.
NCCAOM Launches New Membership Organization
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) recently launched a new national membership organization, the NCCAOM Academy of Diplomates.
The Rest of the Patient Story
I've written previously about allowing a patient to tell you their story – about taking the time to listen and engage all the aspects of their case history, the injury in question, and the related issues.
Building Relationships and Referral Networks with Allopathic Practitioners
Dr. Doug, an orthopedist of 20 years, had heard stories from patients who tried acupuncture. While he was able to address many of their complaints effectively, some appeared to gain additional benefit when their care included TCM.
Business Lesson #1: Adapt or Else
My wife and I recently enjoyed an excellent meal at a restaurant recommended by some friends. We often have concerns about restaurant recommendations, as many have been disappointing.
Essentials of Assessment: The Squat
The squat is a simple, fast and functional tool to evaluate patient symmetry and function. As simple and easy as it is to implement, it can yield considerable amounts of valuable, clinically relevant information.
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.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.