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Posts Tagged ‘Massage Research’

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Want to make a huge impact in the field of massage therapy for the price of a cup of coffee? You can today! Recently I learned of a scientific study that is underway to measure how massage therapy impacts our health. The study, conducted by a  respected researcher in the field, Christopher A. Moyer, Ph.D, author of  Massage Therapy Integrating Research Into Practice, is currently looking for a small amount of funding to compete the final report.

At present, the study is only short $285! Consider donating $5, $10 or any amount of money to this important study to help reach the goal of full funding at $700 (which is a huge bargain considering the thousands of dollars that many scientific studies cost).

EDIT 5-31-13: The study has been fully funded! Thanks so much to all who contributed. I will post details of the results as they become available in future blog posts.

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Why Contributing to this Study On the Effects of Massage Therapy is So Important

1. Most of the research that has been conducted in the massage field has been poorly designed and lacks the controls and scientific integrity that the medical community deems essential for it to be valid research. Much of the studies measuring similar biological and psychological effects were done by very well-meaning people who alas did not apply appropriate research methods for the studies to be considered valid.

2. Massage therapy has been shown, in valid research studies,  to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety,

two devastating but unfortunately prevalent disorders in the U.S. But we don’t know how or why massage has this effect. This current study may lend some insight into he mechanism of action of massage on our mental health.

3. Few studies on massage therapy are conducted in the public eye with the opportunity for clients and massage therapists to have a direct say into what we would like to be studied or what is important for us to learn about the effects of massage therapy. Funding this study is a way to vote with your wallet to let the massage community know what you consider to be important research.

From Dr. Moyer’s site, here are some of the reasons why this study is important:

A better understanding of how the autonomic nervous system responds to massage therapy moment-to-moment as it is occurring, and across the entire treatment session, will increase our understanding of this form of treatment and help us to answer important clinical questions such as:

• How is massage able to reduce anxiety and depression?
• How does massage help the body to recover faster from injuries and to cope with painful conditions?
• How much massage is necessary to provide a therapeutic effect?

• Are there any aspects of massage therapy that tend to increase sympathetic nervous system activity and/or which decrease parasympathetic nervous system activity?

How Will the Funds Be Used (from the Funding website)

The funds being requested are to ensure the completion of this project. Data collection for 60 sessions of massage therapy, which enabled collection of heart rate, heart rate variability, electrodermal response, and mood state, has already been completed under laboratory conditions. This data was collected while Dr. Moyer was an assistant professor of psychology at a university in the upper Midwestern United States. A family health emergency caused him to leave that position before the data analysis and report writing could be completed. Dr. Moyer is requesting funds which will allow me to complete this important study.

Who is Christopher A. Moyer, Ph.D. and Why Should We Listen to Him?

Christopher A. Moyer Ph.D.

Christopher A. Moyer Ph.D.

Christopher A. Moyer, Ph.D is a psychological scientist who uses a variety of methods (e.g., meta-analysis, clinical trials, psychophysiological and neuroscientific laboratory assessments, survey construction and administration, et al.), combined with and informed by clinical training and experience, to study when, for whom, and by what mechanisms massage therapy, the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health, wellness, and performance, can be beneficial. In addition to this main focus, I am also interested in studying other modalities, such as meditation, that involve self-regulation, both for their own sake and as a way to broaden my perspective for understanding massage therapy as an intervention. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

For the past few years, I’ve been reading and learning more about evidence-based practices, research methods, and, sadly, the paucity of solid research backing up the medical benefits of massage therapy. While some members of the massage community are diligently working to improve the quality and quantity of massage research, there are many misconceptions about massage that have been taught to massage therapists in massage school and then passed on to massage clients. Some of these misconceptions have to do with the idea that “massage releases toxins” (technically, it does not and what people mean by “toxins”is unclear as well), that you must drink water after a massage (often as way to “flush” these said” toxins”). Some massage therapists and massage clients believe massage is a healing modality and that massage can release muscle “knots,”  While massage can reduce muscle tension, the conceptualization of knots in our muscles is misleading.  Many of these claims have either been seriously called into question, or explained to be misconceptions caused by massage school instructors trying to simplify physiological explanations.

More will be revealed about how massage therpy works

More will be revealed about how massage therapy works

That all said, I do believe that massage has some physical, mental and possibly, medical benefits. I do believe that most massage therapists genuinely want to help people feel better, want to use massage as  a healing tool and are doing their best to teach clients what they know about the benefits of massage. And I think that while it is important to understand the mechanism of how massage therapist works on our bodies and minds, for now until the research we need pours forth, I would like to propose a few simple explanations as to how massage can benefit us:

1. Most massage therapy, whether performed on a massage chair or massage table, puts the person being massaged into a really relaxing comfortable position. And in our culture, people rarely have a chance to relax or just sit. If we sit down to relax, we often think we are being lazy or unproductive. So giving ourselves permission to get a massage “for our health” or to “reduce stress” allows us to give ourselves permission to sit down and do relatively nothing for a period of time. It’s not magical. It’s not mystical. But relaxing is good for our health. By sitting down or laying down for a period of time, from 10 minutes to an hour or more, allows our nervous systems to move from sympathetic (fight or flight adrenaline pumping mode) to parasympathetic resting and digesting mode).

Just laying down on a massage table is relaxing

Just laying down on a massage table is relaxing

This may seem obvious to you, and you may think, “well what’s the big deal about that?” The big deal is this, in my experience few people in this culture will take the time to just sit down and do nothing or to lay down and relax, especially during a work day or when the kids needs help with homework or they want to spend time with friends. Relaxing is only socially acceptable if we do it in a structured environment like during a massage or while doing meditation. (Even though yoga was originally designed to calm the nervous system and relax the body, in the U.S., we even add words like “power” to yoga and add weight training to a yoga session! Which in my view, really defeats the purpose of doing yoga in the first place.)

2. Another aspect of our culture is that we are super “busy”…and often touch deprived. Our to do lists have to do lists. If we are not accomplishing, if we are not helping kids, parents or friends or making money (or being good consumers by spending money) we are not being “responsible, we are not being “productive” and we are not being “good” parents, children, neighbors, workers, bosses, employees, friends, community members. We are, in an unspoken way, not supposed to take time for ourselves (unless it is to work out, “power” style) because that is considered to be “selfish.” But getting a massage lets a person take care of him or herself without guilt. Instead of this being a selfish act, getting a massage is now seen an act of self caring. If we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot give to others because we will be too sick or too stressed out to be of much use! When you get a massage we allow ourselves to say, “hey this is my hour, or my ten minutes and I want the attention to be on me. I want to feel good, I want to be touched in a positive,  kind way, without the touch feeling sexual or violent or ticklish. And it is for my health so it’s okay in this instance for me to do something for my self.

Getting a massage gives you a little window of time for self care

Getting a massage gives you a little window of time for self care

Likely down the road, we will be able to use science to explain the psychology of massage through random clinical trails. Someday soon we will be able to point to research that shows more specifically how one person touching another via massage actually causes the recipient’s nervous system to shift into parasympathetic mode. But for now, I am content in my own explanations. I know my clients, and clients of other Working Well Massage therapists, benefit from our massages. I know people relax and enjoy getting massages. The science will come. Until then, we will keep providing relaxation, comfort and care to massage clients. And we will acknowledge and encourage their willingness to take care of themselves.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

The world of massage research is in many ways, still in its infancy.  As such there is a lot of conflicting studies that can easily lead people to draw incorrect conclusions. mainstream press often takes the most sensational points from a study and broadcast those points to the world as if it were the Gospel. How do concerned citizens, loyal readers and fellow massage aficionados cope with the deluge of conflicting and confusing information about massage research?  one magazine that does a pretty good job of reporting on massage reasearch is Runner’s World.  In his article, Massage Q+A: Does it Work?, author Sam Murphy writes about a number of studies and explains how research results can be misleading when they don’t compare apples and oranges. or in this case, when research doe snot compare the effects of multiple massage session with the effects of a  single 8-minute session. Runners and research consumers,  take a few minutes to read Sam Murphy’s article. It may clear up questions you have about using massage to improve your athletic performance and or aid recovery from muscle injury.

 

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Yet another study now shows that massage improves productivity, reduces absenteeism and reduces doctors visits due to injury/illness! Read more from The Open Press:

(OPENPRESS) January 21, 2010 — The manufacturing marketing research division of TR Cutler, Inc., (www.trcutlerinc.com) sponsored the national survey of more than one hundred U.S. manufacturers; all show that massage improved bottom line of employers. The study found that after twelve weeks, 269 employees who had once-weekly, 45-minute massages in the manufacturing workplace had dramatically better productivity, reduced absenteeism, included far fewer doctor visits, than a control group of 250 employees who did not receive the massage therapy. The massaged group experienced reduced stress and improved performance, while the control group did not.

Nearly three-fourths (74%) of manufacturing workers reported in a national survey that their job is very stressful. Stress is the leading cause of disability in the manufacturing workplace, costing employers billions of dollars a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs.

The results of regular massages at the workplace provides quantifiable and immediate results — the employees experience stress reduction and greater satisfaction with their jobs.

By triggering a stress free response there is an improvement in immune system function, which reduces absenteeism, one of the most measurable economic impacts on the manufacturing sector. In the national survey, absenteeism was reduced by more than 50% among those receiving weekly massages. The savings to the manufacturing organization was 1000% greater than the actual cost of the massages, which averaged less than $4000 per month.

Read the entire article at The Open Press here.

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