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Massage research as marketing

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Many studies of massage therapy are “fishing expeditions”: research designed to produce results that confirm what the authors already believe. The purpose of such research (probably unconsciously) is to promote the profession, not discover the truth. In other words, as Nick Ng, publisher of Massage & Fitness Magazine, recently wrote:

The current state of most manual therapy research isn’t actually research — it’s advocacy.

Nick elaborates in a Facebook post:

Popperism: “The method of proposing bold hypotheses, and exposing them to the severest criticism, in order to detect where we have erred.”

Unfortunately, physio and massage education tend to do the opposite, where we were taught to find evidence to support what we do or beliefs. That is a huge problem in physio/massage boot camp.

Why we don’t challenge our teachers and peers is because we don’t wanna “hurt their feelings.”

Massage therapy is still perceived as a “cute” health care profession by many physicians and medical scientists, and many educated laypeople. This is a big reason why.

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