Report from the International Massage Therapy Research Conference

This past week I was blessed to attend the International Massage Therapy Research Conference. This event is only held every three years and it was my first time attending. It was held at the Seaport in Boston, a beautiful hotel right on the harbor and right across the street from the World Trade Center, in a great part of town. We enjoyed excellent service from the staff there, so kudos to them.

I arrived on Wednesday in time to view the DVD showing of the International Fascia Research Conference from Vancouver. The presentations from that conference were fascinating, and that event will be the next thing on my wish list. Nothing is better at a movie than popcorn and Milk Duds, which were provided…some of the science presented was above my head, but hey–I went there to learn!

The Conference officially kicked off on Thursday morning with Massage Therapy Foundation President Ruth Werner making some opening remarks, followed by a beautiful blessing from three Native American ladies who were present. Dr. Jeanette Ezzo was the opening keynote speaker. Her topic was “Mechanisms and Beyond: What is Needed to Prove the Effectiveness of Massage?” I must confess I was taken aback at one of her early comments regarding acupuncture. She stated that although there was no scientific proof the meridians exist, that “the efficacy of it gets us off the hook.” I was rather surprised to hear that at a research conference where the focus was on scientific evidence. There was also a poster display, including one entitled “Is There a Place for Energy Work for Children Living With Autism?” It’s just my personal opinion that it was out of place there. That was my only complaint about the entire experience.

On Thursday I also attended a presentation on “Massage Therapy for Specific Conditions,” where four different researchers presented their studies on tension headaches, osteoarthritis in the knee, vascular function, and chronic pain in opiate-addicted patients.

Thursday afternoon I attended the newcomer’s luncheon, where Jerrilyn Cambron, Ruth Werner, and Allissa Haines all gave short talks to those in attendance. Thursday night I attended the welcome reception and met up with a lot of friends.

Friday morning I met with my representatives from Lippincott Williams and Wilkins and then listened to the keynote speech from Leslie Corn, “Somatic Emphathy: Restoring Community Health With Massage,” followed by a panel presentation on “Massage in the Community; Informing Public Health.” That afternoon. I attended a workshop in “Best Practices Guidelines: Building the Framework,” presented by Michael Hamm, Keith Eric Grant, and John Balletto–all previously known to me as Facebook friends–so I was glad to meet them all in person and participate in their class.

Saturday I attended Dr. Janet Kahn’s keynote speech, “Massage in 21st Century Healthcare: Let’s Seize the Moment.” Dr. Kahn’s presentation was probably the most informative and eye-opening moment for me, personally, about the state of health care in general in the US. Let’s just say it is not a pretty picture! As Dr. Kahn pointed out, there is a trend among our politicians to act as if the US has the best health care in the world, but the statistics really show the contrary.

That was followed with a panel presentation on “Next Steps in Massage Therapy Research” moderated by Bodhi Haraldsson, Research Department Director at the Massage Therapist’s Association of British Columbia. I’m telling you now, I could nearly cry when I see how much is done in Canada to advance massage therapy research compared to what is done here. We look disgraceful in comparison. Research literacy is required of every student in every school. $100 of each therapist’s registration fee is used to fund massage therapy research.

Saturday afternoon’s final event was a workshop, “Massage Therapy Research Agenda Planning,” where the approximately 250 attendees split into small groups to brainstorm recommendations for future massage therapy research.

During the whole event I got to visit with so many people, both longtime friends and people I  had only previously met through social media. I shared breakfast one morning with Keith Eric Grant, who was blogging about massage long before I started. I had lunch one day with Lisa Mertz from New York, whom I had previously met in person at the World Massage Festival. Saturday night I had dinner with Ben McDonald and Cliff Martin, owners of Massamio, that I had previously met at another conference.

All in all, it was just a wonderful event. My only regret is that I couldn’t attend every single presentation; some of them overlapped and there was just no way to be in two places at once. Thanks must be given to AMTA as the major sponsor of this event. Other sponsors included Books of Discovery, ABMP, the MA Chapter of AMTA, Anatomy Trains, and Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. The staff of the Massage Therapy Foundation and numerous volunteers kept things running smoothly. A round of applause to them all.

That being said, I feel compelled to go on a rant before I close out this blog. If you are an educator and/or a school owner, you owe it to your students to see to it that they are research literate. I believe there is a serious lack of any knowledge of research literacy in this profession. I am not asking schools to turn out researchers…I AM asking that the basics of research literacy are included in your curriculum, so that your students at least know the difference in what is valid research and what is website hype, one of the numerous myths of massage, or claptrap from a magazine. There is just no excuse for not doing it.

This event only takes place every three years, and the location of the next one has not yet been decided. I don’t care if it’s held on the moon; I will plan to be there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *