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Massage Today
December, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 12

Farewell Readers!

By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB

Dear Readers,

In January 2001, the first edition of Massage Today was released, and my first Speaking of Pathologies column was in the inaugural issue.

It was an introduction to a new concept: readers could send me their interesting questions and challenges around pathology topics, and I would pull together some information for responses that might benefit the rest of the profession. Since that time I have written more than 50 columns on topics ranging from herpes simplex to bariatric surgery to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Most of the time, my articles were stimulated by your input; sometimes I had no direction from readers and simply pursued my own line of interest; this led to a series on neurological conditions including ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries, about which I'm still getting letters several years later, and to a lively discussion about student clinics that established great connections with massage educators around the country.

I have saved every edition of Massage Today since the first one. As I look through our recent history, I see headline after headline tracking legislative issues; massage outreach programs to underserved groups; controversies between our trade organizations; reports on educational and political meetings that influence our professions; and, more and more, articles about the science of massage and how it can be applied in the context of clients who live with imperfect health.

This is the long way around of saying that the time has come for me to step aside. My own career is about to make a major shift. Between this and other commitments, along with the fact that Massage Today is now packed with the kind of content that used to be hard to come by, means that this is one obligation that I can let go. I do it with some reluctance. Massage Today has been very good to me, providing a venue through which I have been able to communicate with thousands of colleagues, and I feel a sense of loyalty to it and to the people who work there. However, as we all know, there is a point where our commitments can become overwhelming and our ability to fulfill them can become compromised. Rather than see that happen, I am happy and proud to leave at a time that I know information about massage and bodywork in the context of disease is more accessible than ever before, and that readers who want to find information or guidance about specific conditions won't be left without resources.

When I started as a pathology writer, I would sometimes do internet searches for "Massage and XX," filling in the name of some disorder or condition. Often, there were no results. Just as often, I would find an advertisement for a practitioner who worked with that disease but no information specifically on the science of massage in that context.

Research Today

Nowadays the options are so much broader! General information about diseases is still available through the old stand-bys (,, and branches of the NIH are some of my favorites), but we have arrived at a point where we can raise the bar to include academic-level research specifically about massage and bodywork. I have three resources that I feel are especially useful in this context, and I would love for readers to keep these for future reference:

The International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork ( This is the academic, peer-reviewed publication of the Massage Therapy Foundation. It is published electronically every quarter and is completely free. The IJTMB recently celebrated its first birthday. Because it is just getting started, its archives are not yet deep but I would love for readers to start here in their search for information.

Google Scholar ( This is an easy-to-use resource for gathering technical content while weeding out the majority of websites that are selling products in the guise of offering information.

Pubmed ( This is run by the government and gathers academic articles about health care from all over the world. My last Pubmed search of "massage therapy" yielded more than 9,000 articles in which massage was studied as primary or comparative intervention. The problem with Pubmed is that while the abstracts of most articles are available, the full text of each may be harder to access unless, like articles in the IJTMB, they are made available through an open-source publisher.

Several other great sources for information exist, and I encourage practitioners to explore them and share them with others. Perhaps the most important point to stress is that what it takes to gather value from this information is patience, persistence and possibly a good medical dictionary. My own background and training is emphatically not in the sciences. If a theatre major from a small liberal-arts college can make sense of a Pubmed article, so can every person reading this column.

Massage Therapy Foundation

Which leads to my next point: one reason I am leaving Massage Today as a regular columnist is to serve as president of the Massage Therapy Foundation, starting in March 2010. Massage Today has been tremendously supportive of the MTF, so most readers are probably familiar with the basic idea. The Massage Therapy Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has been created to advance the massage therapy profession through education, community service and research. We accomplish these goals in many ways, but we rely on donations so that we can fund research projects, help massage therapists set up outreach projects for underserved populations, publish the IJTMB, host research conferences (the party is in May 2010 in Seattle at the Highlighting Massage Therapy Research in Complementary and Integrative Medicine conference!), sponsor student and practitioner case report contests, and send educators out to teach principles of research literacy to massage school faculty all over the country. We do this because the future of the massage therapy profession is in research.

Credible, well-designed research that yields clear information about how massage affects human function allows us to build bridges with the rest of the health care community. It allows us to market massage as a self-care strategy rather than an occasional luxury. It supports massage therapy with qualified practitioners as a safe, cost-effective and powerful health care intervention. Not every massage therapist will become a researcher, but we all need to develop some basic skills so that we can find research, interpret it and apply it to our practices. I hope every reader here will use the Massage Therapy Foundation ( to help with those goals, and I further hope that every Massage Today reader will consider making an annual donation to the Foundation to help pay for those services.

Writing a reader-led column has richly fed me as a writer and an educator. As I scan my list of articles, I have distinct memories of interactions with some readers:

  • A massage therapist who stood behind a heavily pierced person in the grocery store, wondering how she could do massage on a neck full of studs. She wrote, "I had no answers, only avocados."
  • A reader whose first client of the day was co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C, who was worried about consequences for her next client, a newly pregnant young woman.
  • A new therapist with a client coming with a physician's reference but whose eczema was so extreme that her whole back was inflamed, hot and flaky.
  • A bodywork practitioner who developed a MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection and wondered if this meant the end of her career.

These questions and experiences, so generously shared by our colleagues, have opened conversations that I hope have benefitted everyone who read the columns they inspired. Those conversations aren't over, but they have to take place in a different setting now.

It has been my honor and my privilege to work with all of you here. Please rest assured that the other Massage Today columnists will, with great talent and skill, seamlessly fill the small hole I leave. Thanks for all of your support over the years, and please know you have my very best wishes. Many thanks and many blessings.

Editor's note: While Ruth Werner says farewell as a columnist, she will not be far from your readership. Ruth will be part of an exciting new online format with Massage Today. Stay tuned!

Click here for previous articles by Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB.


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