A Commentary on the Role of Randomized Controlled Trials in Massage Therapy
Some massage therapists (MTs) view research as a way to demonstrate to other healthcare professionals (OHPs) that massage therapy is safe and effective and should be an integral part of patients’ health care. This desire for credibility through research, however, requires studies that are acceptable to medical professionals. Therefore, researchers have begun to study massage therapy, primarily using randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Many of the RCTs of massage therapy, rather than proving efficacy, have been met with criticism, including their lack of reproducibility and lack of a suitable control. The belief that RCTs will save the profession of MT, or any health care practice, by proving treatments work, is unfounded. Evidence hierarchies suggest that practitioners should accept the results of RCTs, or the systematic review of RCTs, as the gold standard for efficacy research. Privileging one methodology over another does not use the benefits of the multiple approaches to research available. Researchers should consider whether there are other methodologies that allow for rigorous investigation of massage therapy in a way that would be useful for stakeholders of this research. It is only through research that is rigorously and authentically conducted that the credibility of massage therapy will be established.
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