What Is Evidence Based Massage Therapy?

If you keep up with the world of massage therapy, you will eventually notice that there are some new ideas and terms going around. Evidence based massage. Evidence based practice. Evidence informed practice. Science based medicine. What does it all mean?

Massage Based on Tradition

When I went to massage school, much of what we were taught was based on tradition or what was perceived to be common sense. We did certain things in certain ways because… well, because that was the way we were taught to do them. Massage “improved circulation.” We should drink a lot of water after a massage so it would “flush out toxins.” It seemed to make sense, right?

My first introduction to the idea that science was beginning to contradict some of our dearly held beliefs came when an instructor told me that research had shown that massage did not, as was commonly claimed, reduce lactic acid in muscle tissue. We’d always been told that a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles was what caused soreness and that massage reduced its presence. People repeatedly experience that massage reduces muscles soreness. Therefore, massage must be reducing the presence of lactic acid, right Back Pain Neck Stress Sciatic Pain B07CKKLZQC?

When someone finally did some research, it turned out that, in fact, massage did not reduce the presence of lactic acid. How could this be? Did this mean what we’d been led to believe was wrong? Well, it’s true that massage does decrease soreness in muscles. Apparently, though, it is not because of lactic acid. How does massage decrease soreness? We don’t clearly understand how it happens but we do know that it does happen.

Although one of massage therapy’s sacred cows had just been slain, I liked it that this particular instructor was paying attention to science and research and was more interested in understanding the truth of what was happening rather than defending a tradition that might not be supportable.

Shortly afterward I discovered Neuromuscular Therapy, sometimes referred to as Trigger Point Therapy, and the work of Travell and Simons. Drs. Travell and Simons spent many years documenting the phenomena of trigger points and writing the two volume set Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Studying their work gave me the tools to work effectively with some common pain conditions. It also began to give me the knowledge and vocabulary to speak intelligently to physical therapists and medical doctors about my clients and their patients. It started me down the path of an evidence based practice, a path which I strive to follow to this day.

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