The Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) is a nonprofit foundation that began in 1990 to serve the field of massage therapy.
As the years have passed, MTF has grown in scope, breath and reach, but always grounded in our vision and our mission.
Our vision is that the practice of massage therapy is evidence informed and accessible to everyone. Our mission is that MTF will advance the knowledge and practice of massage therapy by supporting scientific research, education and community service.
MTF supports scientific research in the field primarily by giving grants to researchers to explore the science behind massage therapy. There have been many massage research grants over the years, but perhaps none more impactful than the Samueli Project published last year.
The central question of this meta-analysis was this: What is the state of the science regarding the impact of massage therapy on function for those experiencing pain?
What was to be one exploration of the role of massage therapy in addressing pain turned into three separate projects. The three studies looked at musculoskeletal pain in the general population, cancer related pain and surgical pain.
The results were very positive for the role of massage therapy in treating pain. The press releases for each of these meta-analyses have reached an incredible number of people—almost 90 million at the time of this writing. That is very good press for our profession! You can read these studies by going to the research tools section at massagetherapyfoundation.org.
Another very important way MTF supports our profession is to have a place where scientific massage research and case studies in massage therapy can be published. The creation of the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (IJTMB) was an enormous accomplishment and one in which we can take great pride.
We now, like every other discipline, have our own scientific journal. One of the most important goals in the creation of the journal was that it should be accessible, and accessibility has two components.
First, have you ever read an abstract of a research paper you found interesting, and then discovered that if you wanted to read the whole paper, you could purchase it for a mere $37.50? That does not happen at IJTMB; our journal is open access. Every article is free for anyone to read or download.
This is vitally important to both readers and researchers. While many journals ask the reader to pay for access to full articles, other journals ask the researcher to pay to publish in it. Through your donations, we have made the journal free and available to everyone.
Secondly, one of the most important features of IJTMB is that it is PubMed indexed. If any health care provider or researcher is combing the literature to find out more about the possible benefits of massage therapy, a search on PubMed will take them to anything published in IJTMB.
This is enormously important in disseminating massage research to people who may not have considered our field to have scientific underpinnings and investigation. That benefits all of us in the profession.
Where You Fit In
It is also crucial that massage therapists can read, understand, and share these research insights. MTF has many programs to help therapists understand research, from online programs to conducting research literacy trainings at many national conferences.
Our newest initiative is to create a series of infographics about massage therapy research. Each of these infographics will explore a research finding in a clear and simple format that can be shared with fellow health care providers and clients as well.
The digital versions will be hyperlinked so that people can dive deeper into the material if they so choose. And these infographics can be printed and left in your waiting room or given to clients to take home.
Another tool to explore research is by watching a YouTube video or listening to a podcast of an episode of Research Perch. In these episodes, research articles are discussed and explored in real world terms and can help the listener understand the clinical implications of the study.
Practical and enlightening, Research Perch is a wonderful way to learn more about massage research while you are on the go.
Serving the Community
One of the most heart-warming services of MTF is the awarding of community service grants. These grants bring the benefits of massage therapy to populations that desperately need them, but do not typically have access to massage. Over the years, MTF has given over $400,000 to such efforts. In 2016, we awarded grants to provide massage therapy to
- Medically Fragile Children
- Immigrant Torture Survivors
- Massage for Veterans
- Burn Survivors in New England
The program for medically fragile children is at Maryville Children’s Health Services in Chicago, Illinois. Recently, I had the chance to visit the staff at Maryville and see firsthand the impact that the grant is making.
It was gratifying and inspiring to hear from the staff how massage has positively affected these children.
As one of the staff relayed, much of the touch these children receive is from a medical person poking and prodding them. To have the caring touch of a massage therapist working with them often results in smiles, giggles, and a moment of peace in a day often filled with struggle.
Two of the recipients of Community Service Grants in 2017 have to do with massage and opioid use, one in the military and one in the general population. The opioid epidemic is a national concern and these projects explore the use of massage therapy in pain reduction.
Both projects are research-ready, adding further possible impact for the profession. Perhaps most importantly, these community service grants show the world that we massage therapists are a caring and generous people.
Understand the Work You Do
Why is all this important? Research matters for multiple reasons. Perhaps first and foremost, research is a way for us to more deeply understand the work that we do. It is a formalized way of learning and exploration; massage therapy is a rich and endlessly deep process to explore.
In addition, research endeavors are also a way of connecting with other health professions, sharing what we have learned via research endeavors and case studies. The process of deep inquiry helps all of us to better serve the people who grace our treatment tables.
Please visit massagetherapyfoundation.org for more information. MTF is working very hard on behalf of the field of massage therapy and for the public who desperately needs what massage therapy has to offer.
For that therapist who wants more data to show their clients and fellow health providers, what we do matters. For the veteran with pain issues and who does not know where to turn, what we do matters. For that child or elderly person served by one of our community service grants, what we do matters.
Please consider supporting MTF in any way you are able. If every therapist gave the equivalent of the revenue from one massage a year, the effect would be absolutely astonishing as to the projects we could fund.
MTF is here to serve the whole profession, helping to more deeply understand this profession that we all love so much.
About the Author
Douglas Nelson, L.M.T., is president-elect of the Massage Therapy Foundation. He wrote “Do You Have the Courage to Achieve Massage Mastery?” for massagemag.com.
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