Massage therapy (MT) is widely used and expanding rapidly, but systematic research on its mechanisms and effects has, in contrast with many other therapeutic fields, a short history.
To take stock of the current state of MT research and to explore approaches, directions, and strategies with the potential to make the next two decades of MT research optimally productive.
The 2009 North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Using a modified Delphi method, the study authors led an interactive workshop that aimed to identify established MT research findings, needed MT research, weaknesses and limitations in currently available MT research, and directions to pursue in the next two decades of MT research.
The thirty-seven conference attendees—including MT researchers, educators, and practitioners, and other health care practitioners who already work interprofessionally with MT—actively participated in the workshop and ensured that a diversity of perspectives were represented.
The MT field has made rapid and laudable progress in its short history, but at the same time this short history is probably the main reason for most of the current shortcomings in MT research. Drawing on a diversity of backgrounds, workshop participants identified many opportunities and strategies for future research.
Though lost time can never be recovered, the field’s late start in research should not be allowed to be a demoralizing handicap to progress. Modern scientific methods and technologies, applied to the range of directions and dilemmas highlighted in this report, can lead to impressive progress in the next twenty years of MT research.