What is evidence-informed practice in massage therapy?
“Evidence-based medicine,” and “evidence-informed practice” seem to be hot topics these days. At first glance it might appear that this means that using what the research says as the only guideline for how we treat clients or patients. But it turns out that this is not true.
A 3-Legged Stool
Evidence-informed practice is not a simple one-part concept. It is a three-part process of clinical decision-making, or a three footed stool, if you like.
First Leg: The Client’s Values
What are your client’s goals? What are her priorities for the time you spend together? Are there things she really wants to avoid?
Second Leg: The Practitioner’s Judgment
Part of evidence-informed practice is relying on our own training, experience, and expertise. It is inevitable that our own background will inform the choices that we make with our clients.
Third Leg: What Does The Research Say?
Until recently, this leg of our evidence-informed stool has been spindly at best; the research available about massage therapy was not extensive. But that has changed, and it is now possible to find peer-reviewed case reports, preliminary studies, and even clinical trials and systematic reviews about massage therapy in many contexts, from cancer to chronic pain to scar tissue from burns. Massage therapists who ignore all this information are leaving out a critical part of best practices in clinical decision-making.