David Cherkin, PhD; Karen Sherman, PhD; Richard A Deyo, MD, MPH; Paul Shekelle, MD, Phd: A Review of the Evidence for the Effectiveness, Safety and Cost of Acupuncture, Massage Therapy and Spinal Manipulation. Annals of Internal Medicine. 138(2): 898-906, 2003.

Comments: This study focuses on the efficacy of massage in managing lower back pain. It is current and uses data drawn from three RCTs. All three trials use comprehensive treatments at least six times over the course of a month and follow up immediately after the month’s treatment as well as one month later. This differs from previous research that often used massage only as a control treatment for other physical treatments, used superficial techniques and used brief or few treatment sessions. I also found this article interesting for its comparison of the three modalities of massage, acupuncture and chiropractic as well as its investigation of safety and cost issues.

Georgina Stamp, Gillian Kruzins, Caroline Crowther: Perineal Massage in Labour and Prevention of Perineal Trauma: RCT. BMJ. 322: 1277-80, 2000.

Comments: Although this paper is relatively old, the testing methods are comprehensive. This study shows lack of harm in performing perineal massage, but no significant difference existed between the massaged group and the control group in keeping the perineum intact. I am not as familiar with different types of perineal massage as a midwife might be, so I hesitate to comment on whether or not results might have been different had a different technique been used. Only one type of massage was used in all cases.

Mary Ireland and Melodie Olson: Massage Therapy and Therapeutic Touch in Children: State of Science. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 6(5):
54-63, 2000.

Comments: This paper presents a comparative critique and review of a number of major studies relating both to massage therapy and therapeutic touch. Many of the studies are dated and some are incomplete, but the information remains relevant. Ireland and Olson suggest further research and controlled studies.

Marlaine C. Smith, RN, PhD; Mary Ann Stallings, RN, MS, CS; Suzanne Mariner, LMT, BA; Maggie Burrall, CMT, MA: Benefits of Massage Therapy for Hospitalized Patients: A Descriptive and Qualitative Evaluation. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 5(4):64-71, 1999.

Comments: This study uses questionnaires and narrative reports completed by participating patients and healthcare providers in regards to the benefits of back massage performed on hospitalized adults. Although only a small percentage of care providers responded to the surveys when compared with patients, this subjective and sometimes anecdotal information proves valuable in the creation of future quantitative trials. Cost effectiveness remains unmeasured.

Jeanette Ezzo, MsT, MPH, PhD; Thomas Donner, MD; Diane Nickols, BA, PA-C; Mary Cox, MsT, BS: Is Massage Useful In the Treatment of Diabetes? A Systematic Review. Diabetes Spectrum. 14: 218-224, 2001.

Comments: Although this research was uncontrolled, it points to the possibility that massage has positive effects on blood glucose levels, diabetic neuropathy and insulin absorption at injection sites. Further, it calls for future RCTs to confirm these findings. This article seeks to legitimize massage as a medical modality rather than as a spa treatment. However, most of the massage used in these studies was provided by mechanical means such as electric vibration and syncardial massage. I would be curious about the benefits of a human touch.

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