In the previous column, we looked at the typical structure of a research article, viewed from a high level. Knowing what this skeleton looks like enables us to grasp quickly what the authors of a research study are presenting—even when the topic is unfamiliar. More importantly, this structure ties the authors’ presentation together with the scientific method. Here, we’ll delve into the details of how this is done, working toward a user-friendly understanding of the statistical basics of research studies.
Massage therapists elicit an impressive level of goodwill and increasing popularity among American adults. Fully two out of five adults have visited a massage therapist and 12 percent received at least one massage in 2004, putting massage on par with consumer use of chiropractic and physical therapy services.
Much of what we have learned over the past decade about the physiological and psychological effects of massage therapy has been generated by researchers at the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla. Their investigations cover a wide range of medical conditions, subjects, and ages, in a variety of applications. We know from these studies, for instance, that massage appears to reduce anxiety and depression, positively alter biochemical markers, and stimulate growth in preterm infants.
Once associated primarily with Indian gurus and counterculture enthusiasts, yoga has grown in popularity and is embraced by Americans from all walks of life. In a recent issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (March/April 2004), researchers from Harvard Medical School reported statistics gleaned from David Eisenberg’s well-known 1998 survey on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States.
Practitioners and clients espouse the strengths of massage therapy. But what happens when massage studies are subjected to a rigorous meta-analysis? Are the benefits confirmed?
The present time opens exciting perspectives for American massage and bodywork practitioners. Thanks to a new philosophy, the medical values of massage are getting more and more recognition from clients/patients, as well as from other health and medical practitioners. I am sure that this inevitable process will finally restore massage therapy within the arsenal of modern American medicine. Massage practitioners are playing a major role in this process. It is their job to help the clients and convince other health practitioners of the benefits of massage therapy.
As we discussed in the first part of this article, the mechanical stimuli applied to the place of injuries are able to increase collagen production by the stimulation of fibroblasts’ functions and by attracting new cells from the neighboring areas. However, increased collagen production alone is not enough to heal the injured site. The correct orientation of collagen fibers is an equally important element.
In review after review of clinical trials on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), researchers have informed therapists that many of the studies out there are not of high enough quality to prove benefits of the modalities being examined. Furthermore, there’s an inadequate number of trials to move CAM speedily along on the road to universal acceptance. What’s the problem? And why do we need these trials anyway?