Perceptions of Massage Therapists Participating in a Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Adam Perlman, MD, MPH Duke University
  • Mark Dreusicke, MD Duke University
  • Teresa Keever, BSN, RN Duke University
  • Ather Ali, ND, MPH, MHS Yale University
Keywords: massage therapist, practitioner perceptions, research design, complementary and alternative medicine, qualitative research


Background: Clinical practice and randomized trials often have disparate aims, despite involving similar interventions. Attitudes and expectancies of practitioners influence patient outcomes, and there is growing emphasis on optimizing provider–patient relationships. In this study, we evaluated the experiences of licensed massage therapists involved in a randomized controlled clinical trial using qualitative methodology.

Methods: Seven massage therapists who were interventionists in a randomized controlled trial participated in structured interviews approximately 30 minutes in length. Interviews focused on their experiences and perceptions regarding aspects of the clinical trial, as well as recommendations for future trials. Transcribed interviews were analyzed for emergent topics and themes using standard qualitative methods.

Results: Six themes emerged. Therapists discussed 1) promoting the profession of massage therapy through research, 2) mixed views on using standardized protocols, 3) challenges of sham interventions, 4) participant response to the sham intervention, 5) views on scheduling and compensation, and 6) unanticipated benefits of participating in research.

Conclusions: Therapists largely appreciated the opportunity to promote massage through research. They demonstrated insight and understanding of the rationale for a clinical trial adhering to a standardized protocol. Evaluating the experiences and ideas of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners provides valuable insight that is relevant for the implementation and design of randomized trials.

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How to Cite
Perlman, MD, MPH, A., Dreusicke, MD, M., Keever, BSN, RN, T., & Ali, ND, MPH, MHS, A. (2015). Perceptions of Massage Therapists Participating in a Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 8(3), 10–15.