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Massage Today
January, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 01 >> Patient Education

Knowledge Is Growth: Massage Therapy Research

By CG Funk, LMT

Over the past several years, research on massage therapy and bodywork has been conducted in isolated studies throughout the country. For the most part, these research studies are funded for the purpose of publishing the results in medical and similar style journals.

In other words, the promotion and facilitation of research on various massage therapy and bodywork modalities seems to be targeted at proving the validity of our profession to the wider allopathic and complementary medical communities. While this is a fine and respected endeavor, the positive results of these research studies are getting filed in medical journals and talked about in medical venues but fail to reach the people who could use it the most: massage therapists and consumers.

Why Should You Care?

Why should research and its results be important to massage therapists? Massage therapists educating themselves on research results are able to take that information and share it with their clients. Having that research knowledge gives us a logical platform to stand on when talking about the benefits of our work. Imagine showing your client, through research, that the very disorders and conditions they (or their loved ones) suffer from can be addressed through therapeutic touch. Think of the vast opportunities that will open up to reach a much wider audience.

plant in hands - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Results of massage studies show valuable information on how therapeutic massage and bodywork can provide relief and healing to those suffering from chronic pain, emotional distress and various debilitating diseases and disorders. In other words, it gives all of us power behind our long-held beliefs that massage does impact the human body and psyche on so many levels.

Research Resources

Through the work of the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), information about proven benefits of massage has begun to trickle down to the national therapist community and a small percentage of the American population. The Massage Therapy Foundation has a research database of 4,800 records on massage research and projects. The institutions that have conducted some of these projects include:

  • Mayo Clinic
  • Boston Medical Center
  • Yale University
  • Children's Memorial Hospital
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Children's Hospital Los Angeles
  • Touch Research Institute

The Touch Research Institute (TRI) has more than 100 studies on massage and its effects on several disorders and conditions including anorexia, bulimia, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many results showed a decrease in stress, increase in immune function and decrease in pain created by the above conditions. The results of these studies are available to anyone by simply visiting the TRI Web site.

Call to Action

For massage therapists, understanding research study results is powerful in several ways. The knowledge makes you personally aware of how your profession is growing and expanding. It gives you something to share with new folks to build your practice. With this knowledge, you can further serve your existing clients as well.

So, the call to action is this: make a commitment today to developing your awareness of research studies and learn how you can personally support future studies. Learn where to access this information (such as the resources mentioned) and commit to reading and understanding a study each month. Then, find a way to communicate to existing and potential clients what you learned from the study.

One way you can do this is to find a piece of research that fits a specific disorder/disease connected with a support group. Once you thoroughly understand the research study, reach out to a local chapter of the support group and offer to speak on the information you have.

You can be the conduit between research and consumers. The valuable information you share can help those folks live with less pain and stress. Remember, because of our education in various sciences of the body, we have an easier time reading and disseminating medically written papers. We have the ability of taking the language of research and boiling it down into simple and understandable terms.

On a more personal note: I encourage you to support the Massage Therapy Foundation. Pledge a donation to help MTF continue its valuable work in supporting research and community outreach projects. Even a small annual donation of $20 will have an impact, so give what fits your budget. Visit for instructions on donations and to discover how you can become personally involved as well.

CG Funk is the Vice President of Industry Relations and Product Development for Massage Envy Franchising. Her responsibilities include developing national therapist/esthetician recruiting/retention strategies, developing and testing new service and model offerings and implementing national public relations programs and campaigns. CG has been actively involved in the massage therapy industry since 1992 as a therapist, instructor, curricula and program developer, writer and presenter, corporate trainer and school administrator. She's also a licensed massage therapist in Arizona and California and an advanced cranial sacral therapist.


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