3 Systematic Reviews of Massage Therapy

Systematic Reviews of Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy – The Science is Emerging

Systematic reviews are used as part of an evidence-based model of care to help identify and evaluate existing research for a specific topic. Conducting a systematic review is a complex process. This specific type of research requires multiple research experts each with their own specialized background to collaborate and analyze all the existing research available for one specific topic.

First researchers will pick a topic – for example we could say, ‘the use of massage therapy for low back pain’. Then the researchers comb through research databases to find studies from around the world carried out on that specific topic. After the search is completed the articles are evaluated based on a predefined inclusion criteria. Then articles are separated by those that meet the pre-defined criteria and those that do not meet the predefined criteria.

The research articles that meet the pre-defined criteria are then individually screened for potential biases. There are several ways that biases sneak into research, for massage therapy one of the primary sources of bias is due to therapist and patient blinding (this is hard to control for). In addition to evaluating studies for potential biases, researchers are looking for potential harms, and treatment effect size. Essentially, does this treatment work, and how does it compare to a placebo/sham intervention.

The Systematic REview Process

Healthcare Triage: Systematic Review and Evidence-based Medicine

A List of Systematic Reviews of Massage Therapy

Twenty years ago, there was a limited number of systematic reviews of massage therapy, since 2005 there has been a steady increase in the quality and number of systematic reviews of massage therapy.

Graphical representation of the steady increase in number of systematic reviews
Graphical representation of the steady increase in number of systematic reviews

Improvement in Quality & Quantity

Based on these systematic reviews massage therapy has a growing body of evidence supporting its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving health-related quality of life in a variety of health conditions and rehabilitation, including but not limited to:

Key Takeaways

Massage therapy is a clinically-oriented healthcare option, that is increasingly being used alongside standard medical care to help manage a number of symptoms. This chapter highlights systematic reviews and meta-analyses that support the use of massage therapy.

References and Sources

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Davis, H. L., Alabed, S., & Chico, T. J. A. (2020). Effect of sports massage on performance and recovery: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 6(1), e000614. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000614

Dupuy, O., Douzi, W., Theurot, D., Bosquet, L., & Dugué, B. (2018). An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 403. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00403

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Guo, J., Li, L., Gong, Y., Zhu, R., Xu, J., Zou, J., & Chen, X. (2017). Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in physiology, 8, 747. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00747

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