Humor, insight and enthusiasm, aka my favorite things, were not entirely what I expected to take away from my recent attendance at the International Massage Therapy Research Conference in Alexandria Virginia. The conference was a unique blend of researchers, massage therapists, and faculty from colleges and universities across north America.

Renowned speakers who I’d enjoyed at previous conferences such as Niki Munk, PhD, LMT, Dr. Brent Bauer MD and Anne Blair-Kennedy LMT, PhD, were favorite presenters who did not disappoint. They were joined by many new speakers presenting their groundbreaking laboratory and case study research. From massage therapy in hospital surgical programs, research on the efficacy of massage for veterans recovering from multiple psychological and physical impairments to laboratory research on muscle recovery, the research presented was enough to delightfully “geek out” every attendee.

There was also a presentation on practice-based research networks (PBRN’s) from a massage therapists’ pursuing her doctoral degree. Sami Zabel, doctoral student at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis studying under Dr Niki Munk, was a shining example of a massage therapist on a path to her PhD. Sami is infusing new life into the massage net PBRN, a network set up by the Massage Therapy Foundation to facilitate clinicians connecting with researchers posing questions. The creation of closer ties between the work we do as practitioners’ and the scientific community doing research, only expedites the development of our evidence base.

PBRN’s connect therapists interested in being a part of research as clinicians, with those in academia looking for participants as they apply the rigorous application of scientific methods.

From a show of hands, the crowded conference facility held approximately 80%-degree holders, 20% with master’s degrees, and a growing number of PhD or those completing PhD’s, all with a focus on the advancement of massage research. The strong encouragement for attendees to continue their education, and get involved in research in the field, was a clear indication that quality research in our profession is something that is needed, and we should all do our best to get involved in some way.  Research can so often be a competitive landscape, but presenters were interested in reaching down and pulling forward more therapists with graduate study interests.  The open invitation to join PBRN’s to facilitate networking between massage practitioner and researchers was inspiring

Throughout the conference it was clear, regardless of the study, that massage therapy is a preferred treatment for so many suffering with both physical and mental impairments.

Sami’s call to action was an exciting example of the direction our profession can go.

How will you take part?

For more information about contributing, or to join MTF’s PBRN and explore how you could contribute to future research check out