resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Chiropractic: A Great Fit for the White House
Dr. Eric Kaplan is a New York Chiropractic College alumnus; a No. 1 best-selling author whose books include Awaken the Wellness Within and The 5 Minute Motivator; a chiropractor for professional sports teams and elite athletes; and even served as an advisor under the Clinton Administration to the President's Council on Sports & Physical Fitness.
NSAIDs No Better Than Placebo for Spine Pain
A meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled trials comparing the efficacy and safety of NSAIDs with placebo for spinal pain concludes that among 6,065 spine pain patients, "NSAIDs reduced pain and disability, but provided clinically unimportant effects over placebo."
The Chiropractor's Guide to CRISPR
Science magazine's "Breakthrough of the Year" award for 2015 was described as "the gene-editing tool called CRISPR." CRISPR stands for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats."
News In Brief
A "Modern" Business Model. Acupuncturists may have a new professional atmosphere to consider, as a new concept is on the horizon - at least for one business.
Shedding Light on the Benefits of Heliotherapy
I can't imagine anyone not feeling good strolling in the sun on a beautiful spring day. The sun is responsible for all life on earth and is best illustrated along the equator touting the richest biodiversity on the planet, in stark contrast to the Arctic Circle and South Pole.
The Qi Focus: A Guide to Managing Stress
Stress, are you experiencing heightened stress levels? Your own, and your clients? Is Trumpitis getting to you? I recently polled a cluster of acupuncturists, Asian Bodywork Therapists (ABT) and psychotherapy colleagues on the issue.
Scope of Chiropractic Practice: Why Now Is the Time to Expand
In my January article, "Scope of Chiropractic Practice: Is It Time for Change?" I discussed the use of the term primary spine care practitioner, the loss of privileges to diagnose in Texas, and the fact that the definition of "chiropractic" varied from state to state.
The First (Only) Choice for Spinal Pain
The study on NSAIDs for spinal pain summarized on the front page of this issue is intriguing on a number of levels, the most obvious being the conclusion that "compared with placebo, NSAIDs do not provide a clinically important effect on spinal pain, and six patients must be treated with NSAIDs for one patient to achieve a clinically important benefit in the short-term."
Waist Circumference: A Conversation Starter (Part 2)
Now let's discuss the clinical approach to reducing WC and implementation in today's chiropractic practice. The primary intervention centers around dietary modification and lifestyle habits aimed to reduce adiposity, improve insulin sensitivity and ultimately, diminish systemic metabolic dysfunction.
Insomnia Treatment Based on the Yu Theory
In recent years, acupuncture has risen in popularity as a form of alternative or supplemental medicine for the treatment of many different types of disorders.
Making Sense of Liver Regulation
In Chinese medicine, the liver has the function of moving and storing qi and blood. In its moving function, the liver smoothly distributes qi and blood to the tendons, muscles and flesh through microcirculation.
Give Your Patients the Ergonomic Advantage
Prolonged sitting contributes to low back pain and is a health risk. When I discuss my POLITE technique practice recommendations with patients, ergonomics may be last, but not least!
Caring for Refugees in Greece
At the beginning of 2016 I had no idea what was in store for me, but I was looking forward to a personal retreat on the Greek island of Paros; a graduation gift to myself after 22 years of motherhood, and four-plus years of Chinese medicine school.
Good Works at the Canandaigua VA
Faculty and students of the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (FLSAOM) of the New York Chiropractic College have provided acupuncture to veterans at the Veterans' Administration Medical Center (VAMC) in Canandaigua, New York since September of 2007.
How to Correct a Cuboid Subluxation
Cuboid subluxation is a poorly recognized condition, even though it is not uncommon. It has been described in the literature under various names: cuboid subluxation, cuboid syndrome, locked cuboid, dropped cuboid, cuboid fault syndrome or peroneal cuboid syndrome.
What's Bugging You? Probiotics and Your Health
An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.
Help Save an Important Chiropractic Landmark
The chiropractic profession has a splendid and varied history. Sadly, many landmarks have been lost to bulldozers and wrecking crews, such as the Ryan Building, Little-Bit-O-Heaven, Spears Chiropractic Hospital, and Clearview Sanitarium.
Treating the Terrain of Chronic Sinus Infections
Chronic sinus infections can be stubborn to treat, but the therapeutic path forward can be simplified when utilizing three distinct treatment principles which take into account the terrain of the body, and the way in which microbes grow.
5 Ways to Enhance Your Family Practice
Every practice has a personality style. A practice that caters to athletes, PI cases or adults, for example, projects differently to patients than a family wellness practice.
Integrative Cardiology: The Heart of TCM & Western Medicine
Patient centered therapy is a growing trend in hospitals that are expanding to boutique services.
Toxicity & Kids: The Importance of Environmental Intake
The old adage is true that children are not little adults. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has long known that the physiology of children is unique, as are the diseases that plague them.
Treating LBP the Right Way: Think Natural
An updated clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends spinal manipulation and other non-invasive, non-drug therapies as first options for acute, subacute and chronic low back pain, rather than pain medications, as stipulated in the original 2007 guideline.
March, 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 03
Telling the Truth About Massage Therapy
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
Google "benefits of massage therapy," and you'll bring up 3.5 million web pages. Spend an afternoon checking out a bunch of them, and you'll find a few dozen benefits of massage therapy, along with a hundred or so conditions that massage is expected to help.
Among the many beneficial effects of massage, you might pick out a few focused on common cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment. In particular, you'll see references to the "Big Five" in cancer care: pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. These are compelling problems, familiar to oncology massage therapists and clients alike. Research has found growing support for effects on these symptoms and the strongest support is for easing pain and improving mood in people with cancer.
These claims are simple and fairly well documented. If we stopped there, with that last humble sentence about "growing support," we'd be on solid ground. But in the massage profession, we haven't stopped there, and some of our other claims are not so humble, and not solid at all. Go to some web sites, and you'll see long laundry lists of massage benefits. These don't apply to a specific population or problem. Instead, they are more generic. As we will see below, many of these generic claims are downright problematic.
All of us in massage therapy, not just those working with people with cancer, could do with a closer look at the generic list. I've whittled that list down to a short list of a few supposed massage benefits: claims of massage improving circulation, immunity, and endorphin levels. The likelihood of massage clearing out toxins or lowering cortisol levels.
You might have heard some of these claims repeated for years, starting with your first class in Swedish massage. They are mainstays in the massage therapy profession. Unfortunately, there are at least two problems with this short list.
Clients Don't Ask for These Benefits: Many of our claims about massage are focused on physiological effects, rather than clinical improvements. How many of your clients ask for an increase in circulation or endorphins? How many ask for detoxification or a smaller supply of cortisol coursing through their bloodstream? My guess is that, aside from an occasional request, most clients aren't focusing on these benefits. Our lists of benefits sound good, but they don't really address the primary reasons people come to us. People come to us in order to feel better.
Look back at the big five in cancer care vs. the generic lists of benefits and you'll find an important distinction: The Big Five focus on feeling better, improvements in pain, anxiety, and so on. In contrast, massage claims about endorphins and cortisol focus on complicated physiological explanations of how we might feel better. The former are clinical outcomes of massage therapy, the latter are mechanistic outcomes. Clinical outcomes are direct and relevant to the client. Mechanistic outcomes may not matter to a client at all. Many people take medications without questioning the way they work. In fact, many medications bring about positive clinical outcomes, while their mechanisms of action remain a mystery to consumers and medical providers alike.
This means that when our oncology clients (or really, any of our clients, regardless of health history) look for information about feeling better from massage, they are often met with a distracting list of mechanisms, focused mostly on cells or molecules in the blood going up, going down, or moving more swiftly through the body. These mechanistic claims might sound appealing, but they aren't usually related to the client's problem. And they come with other problems, too.
Our Claims Are Not Accurate: Many of the claims we've been making with such certainty are not at all certain. In most cases, we have no decent research to back what we are saying. For example, the claim about massage upping endorphins can be traced to only two tiny, primitive studies. Only one of those studies, fraught with design issues, reports an endorphin boost. Yet a Google search for "massage" and "endorphin" brings up tens of thousands of websites claiming massage will raise your endorphin levels.
Likewise, claims about improved circulation and immunity — mainstays of massage literature — have only a handful of studies behind them, with conflicting results. A body of research on cortisol has been analyzed and reported that massage does not lower cortisol. And there is no good evidence that I know of, anywhere in the English language, on the massage and toxin question at all.
The weakness in our claims about massage raises serious ethical issues for our profession. Health care providers have a recognized duty to tell the truth about their treatments. Even outside of health care, truth in advertising is a responsibility of anyone promoting a service or product.
When we offer massage therapy, people with cancer, health care providers and the public assume we are telling the truth about our services. In cancer care, patients may be especially vulnerable to false claims and oversold promises. They need to hear reasonable expectations about what massage will do for them. That's why the humble statement above, about "growing research support," for massage and cancer symptom relief is so important.
In particular, at least five of the generic claims we make about massage — effects on endorphins, circulation, immunity, cortisol, and detoxification — should be phased out of our literature, our websites, and our massage classrooms. Any time we tell someone, "massage does this," or "massage will help you with that," without good backing, we are making a false claim. Even with a few million websites repeating the same thing, we have a professional responsibility to question what we are told and what we tell our clients.
Telling the Truth, Discarding the Myths
To help MTs in this regard, the Massage Therapy Foundation has just released a free e-book, 5 Myths and Truths about Massage Therapy: Letting Go without Losing Heart (http://info.massagetherapyfoundation.org/5-myths-and-truths-about-massage-therapy).
In partnership with the Foundation, I wrote the e-book to help straighten out our stories about massage. I offer up a research summary of each claim about endorphins, immunity, cortisol, circulation, and detoxification. I also reference many of the small research studies behind each claim, such as the two tiny studies about endorphins, mentioned above. The results may be surprising, but will help all of us make fair, accurate, more defensible claims about our work.
Reporting the true benefits of massage therapy is just as important as discarding untrue claims. The Foundation offers free e-books on massage and pain research, pediatric massage, connecting with researchers, and even an e-book on connecting with physicians. These and other resources are referenced on the Foundation website www.massagetherapyfoundation.org/resources/general/. The e-books are just a sample of the many resources available at the Massage Therapy Foundation, which has funded research, education, and community service projects for 25 years.
In addition to the free e-book through the Foundation, I have listed 20+ highest-level massage research papers in a recent blog post, "One Massage Study Does Not Prove a Point, www.tracywalton.com/one-massage-study-does-not-prove-a-point/. Three of the papers listed are on massage and cancer. In that post, I also explain why a research review typically provides more useful and accurate information than the single massage studies we are told to promote.
All of our client populations deserve clear, accurate information about the benefits of massage therapy. Massage therapy is a wonderful intervention that is becoming more and more welcome in health care circles, and especially in cancer care. When we keep our claims true, humble and thoughtful, we strengthen the foundation of massage therapy for years to come.
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.