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AMTA Online Course: Research and Massage Therapy

Online CE Preview: "Research and Massage Therapy"

By introducing current research into the classroom, you can broaden your student’s skills and support research literacy throughout the profession of massage therapy. Explore the importance of research, basic research concepts, how to conduct research, and the value of incorporating research into your personal practice and classroom through this online CE.

What is Research?

Scientific research is the process of attaining knowledge through logical and measureable evidence. Research basically entails gathering information about a particular topic. Scientific research is the systematic and organized investigation of a problem that generates new knowledge or validates existing knowledge. It is typically conducted in specific, clear steps (systematic) and with a planned structure or method (organized).

Although research can occur in virtually every area of inquiry, this course focuses on the methods related to scientific research. The process of attaining knowledge through logical and measureable evidence is the backbone of science.

Research Occurs Everywhere

Research can identify safe and useful practices vs. harmful and useless ones. Politicians conduct research polls and surveys to create policies. Companies conduct research on services and products to improve customer satisfaction. Medical scientists conduct research on clinical treatments to determine best medical care. Pharmaceutical companies test drugs to determine efficacy. 

Research is also an important part of the massage therapy profession. Researchers conduct research to determine both “safe and useful practices,” as well as “harmful and useless practices.” In turn, these outcomes provide a solid foundation for growth. Research results also help to secure the acceptance and support of other professions.

Research Advances the Profession

Prior to the 20th century, the medical profession was largely unregulated. Clinical treatments were unsubstantiated and haphazard. Patient treatment was based on practitioner’s experience, intuition and anecdotal evidence. Without a controlled, systematic study of treatments, medical professionals were in a poor position to know which treatments were effective and which were not. As a consequence, some medical procedures that were ineffective or harmful (e.g., using mercury) persisted. Other “revolutionary” procedures (e.g., proper hand washing and sterilization) became standard practice.

Evidence-Based Practice

Research enables a systematic approach to the best patient care.

In the 1900s, various groups, government agencies, standardizing committees, clinical trials, computer technology and the development of the peer-review process, began the movement to standardize medicine. Today, much of medicine is based on systematic research that seeks to provide the best patient care—evidence-based practice.

Evidence-based practice integrates three important components into research (Straus, Richardson, Glasziou & Haynes, 2011): 

  •  Best research evidence. Best research evidence is “clinically relevant research.” In other words, research that documents the best clinical outcomes based on accurate, safe and efficacious assessment and therapeutic treatment. Evidence-based practice strives to distinguish what works from what does not work in clinical practice.
  • Clinical expertise. Clinical expertise is the ability of the practitioner to use sound clinical skills and past experience with regards to the treatment risks (possible harm to the client), treatment benefits (possible good for the client), and the client’s current state of health and diagnosis. Evidence-based practice incorporates the practitioner’s background and level of training.
  • Client values. Client values consist of preferences, concerns and expectations. Evidence-based practice strives to incorporate the client’s perspective into the research.


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Kim K., AMTA member since 2003

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