During the course of attending massage school at A New Beginning School of Massage, students are given a number of assignments that requiring research and writing. Some of these assignments result in very insightful and  well thought out information and  decision-making outcomes. I am happy to share some of their assignments for you to enjoy.



There are several types of research used in exploring the land of massage. They are categorized as basic and clinical research, quantitative and qualitative research, and analytical and descriptive research. Basic research is performed in a lab and involves the observation of massage on a cellular level. The knowledge obtained from basic research is then applied into clinical research, which is where experiements are carried out to determine how this knowledge may or may not be helpful in a practical setting. Quantitative research is the collection of data in the form of numbers, such as statistics and percentages. Qualitative research conducts interviews or analyzes pictures in order to understand human behavior. Analytical research looks at the why and how something has occurred and descriptive research is used to describe characteristics of an individual, group, or situation.

In my opinion, these are all valid types of research. Clinical research, or applied research, seems to be the most commonly used and, given that it is backed by scientific evidence, I can understand why. Clinical studies have helped us to understand the benefits of massage on a wide range of health ailments such as cystic fibrosis, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis.

One of the best ways to determine the validity of research is through reputable sources. The internet contains a cluster of information. Knowing how to locate reputable sources will help to eliminate sifting and sorting through the cluster. Some examples of credible search engines include Google Scholar, PubMed, and Medline Plus. A good example of a reputable source is a peer-reviewed journal. Check for a level of consistency in information, such as with case series. Are there several different sources concluding the same results? This is a good indication that the information may be valid.

Science is a constant process of discovery, and the best way to improve out understanding of facts vs. myths is through research. Massage has been a healing modality for over 5,000 years. Within the last decade, we have learned a great deal about massage and its affects on the bdoy, both physically and emotionally, through successful research. Aa a result, massage has become more and more accepted for its healing properties in western medicine. It is important that we, as therapists, continue to expand our knoweldge of both new and old ideas. Through performing diligent research on both new and old ideas, we can improve the credibility of massage thearpy as a profession.

glass-of-waterMy reseach topic will discuss the idea that water removes toxins from the body after massage. Although this may seem logical, there is no scientific evidence that can atually back this statement. For starters, which toxins are we talking about? A toxin is a poison of plant or animal origin that induces an immune response. Often times, a therapist is referring to lactic acid, which is not considered a toxin, and a different topic all together. The human body has the ability to naturally cleanse itself of "toxins" through the liver, kidneys, and even digestive system. You can certainly promote the healthy function of these organs by drinking enough water, as well as avoiding stressors such as coffee and alcohol, but you will not be helping to flush toxins. In order for massage to gain acceptance in the medical community, we need to change the language we are using. When talking about "toxin," perhaps a more accurate term would be metabolic waste. Even then, it seems that this waste may be too chemically attached to targeted tissues to be released by massage. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine offers several theories on the affects of massage, but none point to toxin release. So, although offering your client a glass of water after a massage demonstrates good customer service skills, unfortunately it will not help them to flush toxins from their bodies.

In doing the research for this assignment, I have discovered that it can be easy to surrender to ides that have been floating around over a period of time. There are "truths" that we have been exposed to that simply need to be corrected. As a therapist, I certainly do not want to contribute to any false ideas about the effects of massage. I aim to be vigilant and to ask questions when in doubt. I want to encourage my clients to do the same.




Chikly, Bruno, 2001: Silent Waves - Theory and Practice of Lymph Drainage Therapy. I.H.H. Publishing, Scottsdale, AZ, ISBN 0-970-05305-3.

Tarnopolsky, Mark. A., 2002: Metabolic myopathies and physical activity. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 30 (6). (http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/2002/06_02/tarno.htm)

Vernon H, Humphreys K, Hagino C. Chronic mechanical neck pain in adults treated by manual therapy: a systematic review of change scores in randomized clinical trials. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2007;30(3);215-27.

During the course of attending massage school at A New Beginning School of Massage, students are given a number of assignments that requiring research and writing. Some of these assignments result in very insightful and  well thought out information and  decision-making outcomes. I am happy to share some of their assignments for you to enjoy.

To gain respect in the medical community and provide the most effective treatment for 157px-back-pain-clip-art-1388508clients, massage therapy is moving away from an intuition- and tradition-based practice to an evidence-based practice. An evidence-based massage therapy practice has three components;

Type of evidence-based Research

Examples of evidence-based research include:

Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Research in the massage profession includes both qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research is focused on how people think and feel and why they make certain choices.8 Quantitative research provides a numerical or statistical explanation of some phenomena.9

A qualitative researcher would ask an open-ended question such as, "How does background music affect your massage experience?" In contrast, a quantitative researcher would ask for a rating, "On a scale of one to five, do you like background music during your massage?" The qualitative researcher would look for themes in the responses while the quantitative research would analyze the numbers.

Massage therapy is "a complex intervention with physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual components."10 Because of its complexity, a mixed-method approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative methods may offer greater insights into the effectiveness of massage than a strictly quantitative approach. For example, the physiological effects of massage are measurable, and therefore, well suited for quantitative research.The psychological, social, and spiritual components are not easily measured and are better suited for qualitative research, which "explores, documents, focuses on people's perceptions, experiences, and views, as well as the meaning that they give them."11 While numbers and statistics are important, a mixed-method approach allows researchers to "provide insights into the outcomes, process and context of massage therapy that cannot be fully achieved through quantification alone."12

Research Validity

Because in massage therapy, the measurable results of an intervention as well as the subjective parts of the therapeutic relationship matter, both quantitative and qualitative research are valid and offer useful information for the profession.13 The hypothesis or research question directs which type of research is most appropriate to answer or investigate a particular question.

Some questions about the effectiveness of massage therapy are better answered with quantitative research. For example, determining whether massage flushes lactic acid from the muscle cells requires quantitative data (What is the blood lactate level before massage? What is the blood lactate level after massage? What is blood lactate level for the control group?) A qualitative approach (How does the person perceive the amount of lactic acid in her blood?) simply cannot provide an accurate answer to whether massage flushes lactic acid from the blood.

On the other hand, some questions about the effectiveness of massage therapy are better answered with qualitative research-for example, why do athletes seek out massage after an event? Or, how does receiving massage effect an athlete's perception of recovery after an event? These questions might be answered with a number, but a number does not give a full aaccounting of why the person things the way she does.

In some quantitative studies, the participants believed that the massage intervention caused a change, but the hard data did not support their perceptions. Qualitative research "provides the opportunity to examine the context of the intervention, since the context may influence the outcome(s) of the intervention.14

Evaluating the Validity of Research Studies

Criteria to consider when reviewing a research study for its validity include:

Some massage research studies have been criticized for faulty methodology such as:

Reviewing how a study's methology addresses these common research flaws helps evealuate the validity of that pariticular study's results.

Importance of Research to the Massage Profession

Research is important to the massage profession. If massage therapists want to be considered health care practitioners and gain standing in the medical community, then massage therapists must base their practice on the research and scientific evidence upon which other medical professionals rely. Although, a double standard appears to exist regarding evidence-based practice. Some researchers found that 20-50 percent of mainstream Western medical care and almost all surgery have not been evaluated by TCTs.17

Nevertheless, treatment decisions should not be based on personal experience alone. While the handing down of knowledge from practitioner to practitioner is a vital aspect of the massage tradition, personal experiences have an inherent bias (our own assumptions and viewpoints) and are not generalizable to the larger population. Examining the findings of both quantitative and qualitative research allows massage therapists to develop more effective and appropriate treatment plans, which will lead to credibility with clients and in the medical community.18

Furthermore, as practitioners in the complementary and alternative medicine field, we have an ethical duty to "do no harm" to our clients.19 Using research findings to inform treatment decisions helps ensure that clients receive the safest, most effective, and appropriate interventions.

Gaining standing in the medical community is also important for business reasons. For example, accepting and billing insurance may provide an additional revenue stream for a therapist. But, insurance companies must view massage as medically necessary before a therapist can bill for her services.20 Further, doctors and other health care providers are important referral sources (70% of respondents in ABMP's 2015 consumer survey said that they would give a lot of importance to a doctor's recommendation for massage and 59% would give a lot of importance to a physical therapist's recommendaiton21). If these medical providers do not see research evidencing the benefits of massage, they will likely not recommend massage to their patients.

Assumption to Investigate

Pain following a workout is due to lactic acid build-up.

Research Article Reviewed

Cheung, Karoline, Patria A. Hume, and Linda Maxwell. "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors." International SportMed Journal, 2003. Available at http://reference.sabinet.co.za/sa_epublication_article/ismj_v5_n2_a1.

Summary of Research Findings

Muscle soreness following physical activity is classified as "acute" or "delayed onset." Acute muscle soreness (or muscle fatigue) occurs during the final stages of an intense activity; this type of pain is attributed to the restrition of vessels supplying blood to the active muscle and th accumulation of metabolic waste products.22 Lactic acid is not a waste product; the muscles produce it from glucose and burn it to obtain energy. Further, almost all lactic acid produced during exercise is removed within one hour after exercise by the circulatory system.23

On the other hand, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) peaks 24-72 hours after intense exercise has been completed and then subsides within one week. DOMS symptoms range from muscle tenderness to severe pain. It is one of the most common and recurrent forms of sports injury. DOMS can only be treated after it occurs; no interventions are currently known to prevent DOMS. One of the reasons for the lack of prevention interventions is because the cause of DOMS is not known.24

Post-exercise soreness depends on the intensity and duration of the activity as well as the type of activity performed. Activities requiring eccentric contractions, in which the muscle fibers lengthen, cause more post-exercise soreness than activities requiring concentric or isometric contractions. Examples of activities requiring eccentric contractions include downhill running, squatting, throwing a ball, and lowering a barbell.25

Six theories have been posited to explain the cause of DOMS: lactic acid; muscle spasm; connective tissue damage; muscle damage; inflammation; and enzyme efflux theories.

The research findings do not support the statement that pain following a workout is due to lactic acid build-up. According to Cheung et al., the lactic acid theory has received the most criticism of the proposed theories and has "largely been rejected."27 Most researchers say that one theory cannot explain DOMS. A combination of muscle damage; connective tissue damage; enzyme efflux; and inflammation theories seems to offer the best explanation but warrants further research.28

While the cause of DOMS remains unsettled, several treatments have been tried to help restore maximum fucntioning as quickly as possible.

Practice Implications

Reviewing the research on whether lactic acid build-up causes pain following a workout and finding that it almost certainly does not has several implications for my future practice.

First, I will not perpetuate this myth by telling clients that lactic acid build-up is the cause of their sore muscles. I will explain that sore muscles are likely caused by a number of elements, but lactic acid build-up is not one of them. Now I know where to find research that  provides explanations with a scientific base. Being able to share these articles with clients helps improve my credibility because I can show that I pay attention to current clinical research and use it to develop my interventions.

Second, discovering that this widespread explanation for muscle soreness is really a myth emphasizes how important it is to be skeptical of commonly held beliefs. Questioning and taking a more analytical approach leads to practice advancement.

Finally, I will seek out opportunities to get involved in further research on massage–the opportunities seem wide open.

  1. Ed. Dryden, Trish and Christopher Moyer. "Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice." Human Kinetics, 2012. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/apply-evidence-based-practice-in-massage-therapy>.
  2. Thompson, Diana. "Levels of Evidence: How to Learn What We Want to Know." Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, Mar/Apr 2010. Web. 11 May 2015 <http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1870?Levels-of_evidence%3A-How-to-Learn-What-We-Want-to-Know>.
  3. Thompson.
  4. Thompson
  5. Chan, YH. "Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs)–Sample Size: The Magic Number." Singapore Medical Journal, 2003. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.nuhs.edu.sg/wbn/slot/u3344/biostat_RCTsample_resources[1].pdf>.
  6. Thompson.
  7. Thompson
  8. "Qualitative and Quantitative Research." Business & IP Centre, The British Library. Web. 11 May 2015. <http://www.bl.uk/bipc/resmark/qualquantresearch/qualquantresearch.html>.
  9. "Introduction to Quantitative Research." SAGE Publications, 2010. Web. 11 May 2015. <http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/36869_muijs.pdf>.
  10. Andrade, Carla-Krystin. Outcome-Based Massage: Putting Evidence into Practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.
  11. Andrade, Carla-Krystin, and Paul Clifford. "Qualitative Research Methods." Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice. Human Kinetics, 2012.
  12. Kania, Ania, Antony Porcino, and Marja Vehoef. "Value of Qualitative Research in the Study of Massage Therapy." International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 15 Dec 2008. Web. 13 May 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3091453/>.
  13. Neufeld, April V., Beth Barberree, and Sandra K. Anderson. "Qualitative Research Furthers the Study of Massage Therapy." Massage Today, Oct. 2013. Web. 18 May 2015. <http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14825>.
  14. Neufeld et al.
  15. California State University Chico. "Evaluating Information-Applying the CRAAP Test." 17 Sep 2010. Web. 20 May 2015. <www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf>.
  16. Grace, Sandra. "The Evidence for Massage." Foundations of Massage. Elsevier, 2009.
  17. Grace.
  18. Neufeld et. al.
  19. See Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) Code of Ethics at http://www.abmp.com/about/code_of_ethics.php and American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Code of Ethics at <https://www.amtamassage.org/About-AMTA/Core-DOcuments/COde-of-Ethics.html>.
  20. Diamond, Irene. "To Bill or Not to Bill: Should You Accept Insurance?" Massage & Bodywork. Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. May/JUne 2015.
  21. Osborn, Karrie. "Who Do Your Clients Trust?" Massage & Bodywork. Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. May/June 2015.
  22. Gulick, Dawn T. and Iris F. Kimura. "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: What Is It and How Do We Treat It?" Journal of Sports Rehabilitation, 1996. Web. 26 May 2015. <http://journals.humankinetics.com/jsr-pdf-articles?DocumentScreen=Detail&ccs=6415&cl=6671>.
  23. Brummitt, Jason. "The role of massage in sports performance and rehabilitation: current evidence and future direction." North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 2008. Web 26 May 2015.
  24. Cheung, Karoline, Patria A. Hume, and Linda Maxwell. "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors." International SportMed Journal, 2003. Web 26 May 2015 .
  25. Cheung et al.
  26. Cheung et al.
  27. Cheung et al.
  28. Cheung et al.
  29. Cheung et al.


During the course of attending massage school at A New Beginning School of Massage, students are given a number of assignments that requiring research and writing. Some of these assignments result in very insightful and  well thought out information and  decision-making outcomes. I am happy to share some of their assignments for you to enjoy.

Does Massage Flush out Lactic Acid from Muscle Cells?

157px-back-pain-clip-art-1388508There's no doubt of the health benefits ensuing from massage therapy, which include lymphatic drainage to realigning the body; from increasing the circulation and stimulation of oxygenated blood to releasing myofascial tension. But what about flushing out lactic acid from muscle cells? I began doing some research on this and thankfully there are many types of research found in the massage profession; medical articles and case studies online to magazine journals and surveys and reviews. I find that these are valid because they are evidence/experiment based and reported publicly. The evidence concluded from massage therapy studies is important because it is opening new awareness of the human body's homeostasis, and in medicine. I think it is important to keep up with studies of massage therapy because we expand our knowledge of the human body. So..is it true that massage flushes out lactic acid from muscle cells? Well, the answer is no.

To better understand the concept of lactic acid, we first have to comprehend what it does. Lactic acid is a substance the body creates after rigorous exercise. Muscles contract to the point of exhaustion and lactic acid was thought to be a waste product of exercise. "It (lactic acid) is the result of the glycolytic energy production," according to Diane Thompson, in her somatic research, The Lactic Acid Debate. "In other words, muscles make lactic acid to fuel cells not only in the muscle that produces the lactate, but also as an energy source that can be shuttled off to adjacent muscle cells for fuel. Lactic acid has also been found to fuel fibers in the heart and brain cells." Lactic acid is also a continual product of carbohydrate metabolism. But the idea of massage getting rid of the lactic acid is myth. In another source, Keith Eric Grant PhD. from Massage and the Lactic Acid Myth-Lactating Mythers, he states that the body during glycolysis produces pyruvic acid. Although, he adds,"If the pyruvic acid is not being removed as fast as it is being produced, it will build up, bringing glycolysis to a halt. To prevent this...lactic dehydrogenase converts the pyruvic acid to lactic acid." Also by training efficiently and increasing the mitochondria in muscle cells, the lactate build up is burned for energy and lactic acid clears quickly. Over training though, can kill muscle cells. So, massage does not flush out lactic acid but rather can ease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)–"once thought to be caused by lactic acid build up but now attributed to inflammation and micro-tears in the muscle fibers, fascia and nociceptors" Thompson cites.

So, we can conclude that massage does not flush out lactic acid as most would believe; a common myth in the massage therapy field. When clients complain about the lactic acid build up in their muscles, now you know what you can explain to them: Lactic acid forms from rigorous exercise and is not formed in muscle cells nor is it a waste product. It is an energy source the body uses for fuel.


The Lactic Acid Debate somatic research by Diana Thompson, http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/2040/The-Lactic-Acid-Debate
Lactating Mythers (Massage and the Lactic Acid Myth) by Keith Eric Grant, PhD.  http://www.ramblemuse.com/articles/lactating_mythers.shtml
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