Massage therapy has seen a lot of growth in the past decade. Some of that growth has come with growing pains, and there’s a treasure trove of information to be explored and debated in all of the growth. Much of this has gone hand-in-hand with an increased re-acceptance of massage therapy as a therapeutic, non-pharmaceutical, nonsurgical intervention, beneficial for a lot of different conditions (let’s call this “technique” clinical massage). With social and cultural shifts regarding wellness and medicine, as well as the economy factoring into peoples’ healthcare choices, it’s tough to pin down a primary force that’s driving the re-acceptance.
Consumers are more savvy, these days. Information is so easily found and shared, and consumers want evidence, and will seek it out. So, regardless of the key driving factors, we know that reception of clinical massage as an alternative treatment has come with an increase in research. Whether the research is driving the acceptance, or the acceptance is driving the research is unimportant – we know that we are seeing a steady increase in the amount of massage therapy research. A quality scientific study will validate anecdotal evidence, and help make cases for subsidies (read: insurance coverage) for certain types of massage treatments.
The Massage Therapy Foundation now offers grants for studies in amounts up to $30,000, and research conducted by medical and research organizations not associated with massage is also increasing. Increased research and support for massage therapy will also continue to make it easier for clinically-minded massage therapists to gain traction with physicians, physical therapists and other medical professionals. Research conducted by organizations that are not massage-focused will put that evidence in the hands of a wider audience, and further help to spread awareness and acceptance.
As I mentioned, this is already in motion, and we can expect to see continued emphasis on massage research, as evidenced by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork’s recent changes in Continuing Education requirements. NCBTMB has repositioned their Board Certification Credential as an advanced credential. Just as their former National Certification credential helped to set apart practitioners with proper education and qualifications, the revamped Board Certification credential poised to help move clinical massage into greater acceptance as an effective alternative to more common medical treatments, for certain conditions. It will also require certified therapists to get a certain amount of their continuing education credits in the field of research.
NCBTMB’s changes are further indicators of the gradual sea change in the public perception of massage therapy, and the standards to which massage therapists are likely to be held by the public and by medical professionals. In the near future, the therapists and organizations that will set themselves apart will be those with research literacy, and affiliations with organizations conducting massage therapy research.