Debates concerning evidence-informed health-care practices still rage on in 2012. Within manual therapies, especially those still considered complementary and/or alternative, the discussions cover a wide range of issues: the degree to which evidence should be used in practice; the credibility that research literacy may bring to a profession; the definition of meaningful research within the realm of a certain therapy; and more. As well, clinicians still wonder what all that great research means to them in their daily work. And then, there’s the eternal quandary of funding.
Often helping, but sometimes complicating, this ongoing discussion is the fact that research methodology, in itself, is a highly convoluted and dynamic area of study. The parameters and requirements behind whole projects can change dramatically throughout the course of their execution. The result is a mind-boggling wealth of information and developments that each individual or group must keep abreast of in order to compete for research dollars and credibility – never mind to arrive at answers that have clinical utility.
Why, massage therapists may wonder, does all this matter within their profession, which is, after all, largely not university-based, smaller in its numbers than some other manual therapy groups, and different in its scope than many medical specialties?
Consider the following: In the past few years alone, attention – by which I mean manpower and money – has been invested into the validation, through research, of complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies. Included in these efforts has been, among other things, increased consideration of study design according to the scope and practice of each specialty. The randomized clinical trial – the gold standard in conventional medical research – has been scrutinized for its utility in studying therapies that, by their very definition, are not meant to utilize single-remedy solutions in a cookie-cutter fashion. As well, the issue of knowledge translation has received much air time among CAM groups. Furthermore, increasing research literacy has become more important to ensuring survival of these therapies. Finally, a recognition has sprouted that in order for meaningful science to be conducted, clinicians must maintain a stream of communication between themselves and those investigators doing the basic science work. (Please refer to our cover article for a more detailed discussion of this very important issue.)
My point is this: what better milieu can there be for a profession to come forward and demonstrate its credibility and strengths than the current scientific and health-care environment? “Strike while the iron is hot” may seem like a tired cliché, but it is most fitting here. It is, also, less a philosophical statement than a challenge. To ensure the growth and survival of massage therapy in our health-care systems, no RMT can remain passive. The profession is being called upon to “step up” and participate in today’s health-care journey – and this requires a degree of involvement in research. Research literacy, active bilateral dialogue and evidence-informed practice are no longer options but keys to safer practices, greater recognition and, thus, professional growth.
Thank God, then, that the research debates are still raging in 2012. This gives all members of the profession the perfect opportunity to step in and make a difference in an environment that is dynamic, open and exciting!
From the Editor: Winter 2012
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