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Massage Today
November, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 11

Supporting Research and Education

By Massage Therapy Foundation Contributor

Contributed By April Neufeld, BS, LMP, Beth Barberree, BA, RMT, MK Brennan MS, RN, LMBT

This month, The Massage Therapy Foundation's research column looks at a different kind of article published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (IJTMB); an editorial from IJTMB's Practice Editor, Niki Munk, PhD, LMT, entitled, "Case Reports: A Meaningful Way for Massage Practice to Inform Research and Education." Unlike the research articles frequently reviewed in this column, an editorial is not independent research but an open letter to the IJTMB readers.

In this editorial, Dr. Munk argues for the fundamental importance of case reports to support research and education. Unlike the gold standard of research, the randomized controlled trials, case reports offer a glimpse of what the massage therapy practice looks like in the actual treatment rooms. Research is increasingly focused on real world (effectiveness) approaches, "research that is practice-informed becomes even more important if practitioners of the field wish for the research being conducted to be relevant and translatable to everyday massage practice."

Researchers rely on the detailed descriptions of massage therapy techniques outlined in other research studies to inform the treatment protocols for future research. The lack of consistent international standards for massage education makes research a challenge, but a well written, peer-reviewed case report informs the researcher of the techniques utilized by and the focus of massage therapists in private practice. This, in turn, can influence the focus and methods of a research study. When you choose to write your case report, it is important to include details on the techniques used, patient characteristics, condition of complaint, provider and patient expectations and outcomes. Additionally, a description of the massage therapist's credentials is essential given the inconsistencies in education and regulation.

Case reports can be a stepping-stone to get involved with research and can contribute significantly to the increasing database of massage therapy evidence. Additionally, case reports are building blocks for more detailed research studies and, "provide a venue for information to be shared across all practitioners, educators and researchers."

According to the author, many massage therapists may be reluctant to write case reports because of a misconception that case reports describing ineffective treatments or unsuccessful outcomes are not of any professional or research value. In fact, case reports that report ineffective outcomes are equally important as the successful and effective treatments. These types of reports provide a well-rounded evidence base for other practitioners, researchers and educators.

Now, you may think to yourself that you do not have a scientific writing background and may feel you do not have the academic training to write a proper, scientifically relevant case report. But LMTs should keep in mind that there are many resources to support aspiring authors. The Massage Therapy Foundation is a great resource for new writers. Additionally, many medical professionals (Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Naturopaths) or people affiliated with a university could be interested in being a co-author for your case report. "Publications in peer-reviewed journals are important for academic career advancement (for them), and having a second author" provides support and gives credit to the first author. These kinds of writing partnerships can also lead to further mentorship and may be an opportunity for career advancement. Partnering with someone who has more education and/or training may be ideal to polish a case report that struggles with scientific background and writing. Additionally, remember that while writing alone can be isolating, writing with a partner can be highly rewarding. Having work get edited and reviewed hones writing skills and can build confidence. And, it isn’t just case reports that are of interest to the IJTMB. The journal is also open to case series, practice evaluations, letters to the editor, original theoretical practice devised discussions and other practice-related contributions.

To learn more about the effects of massage therapy, you can review the Massage Therapy Foundation article archives, read accepted MTF Research Grant abstracts, or search PubMed for massage therapy studies.

With your continued support, the MTF is able to fund scientific research, promote research literacy and provide the gift of massage to people who need it the most.

To read the IJTMB editorial in-full, visit To donate to the Massage Therapy Foundation, visit

Click here for more information about Massage Therapy Foundation Contributor.


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