The Business of Massage – I mean CAM therapies

Originally published in WA State Massage Therapy Journal – Oct 2011 – Chase_WMTJ_2011-10_Business of Massage

This summer I have had the good fortune to work at the Samueli Institute in the Washington, DC, area. The institute, founded in 2001 by Henry and Susan Samueli, is a research firm dedicated to the scientific investigation of healing and its role in health care and wellness. Their focus includes complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, optimal healing environments, relationship-centered care, the mind and lifestyle in healing, health care policy, and military and veterans’ health. If you’re keen on industry findings, you may be familiar with them. If you’re new to the field or its emerging research, their name might be yet unknown to you. I would like to propose that the work of this institute and others like it is reshaping the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) around us in innumerable ways—and so it behooves us to pay attention.

While massage is often a standalone service in clinics or private practices (as in mine, I’ll admit), I’ve come to understand that research supporting the efficacy of our work is truly relevant if we are ever to be peers in comprehensive client/patient care. In short, I think CAM research is raising the bar for massage practitioners by generating quantitative and qualitative data meaningful to people outside of our field. Maybe you’re inclined to dismiss the importance of research regarding things you “already know,” e.g., that massage and complementary medicine are effective. I would suggest that the research isn’t necessarily for you, the practitioner. It’s for those who want nonnarrative-based support that CAM therapies work. Like it or not, the Western world craves scientifically validated results that go beyond empirical experience. So even if you yourself don’t need proof, are you willing to support agencies working nonstop to bolster our reputation to laypeople?

Example and case in point: One of the Samueli Institute’s funders is the Department of Defense (DoD). Hard to believe, but the DoD is one of the leading proponents of CAM therapies! Why? Because of research that supports its efficacy and cost-effectiveness. What has this to do with our practices? Inclusion of CAM therapies in the most elite military in the world sends a powerful message about their importance.

It benefits us to support the findings of institutions like the Samueli Institute, Massage Therapy Foundation, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and others. Their success, published in recognized journals, can have a significant and swift impact on our field. In addition to reading and disseminating information, we need to submit proposals to get funding for massage research. I’m not suggesting our work isn’t intrinsically impactful, but that it is advantageous to support those researchers and policymakers who are indirectly supporting us.

It’s time to educate yourself about the massive field of truly integrative medicine blossoming around you by reading current CAM research and sharing it with clients and fellow practitioners. Personally, I feel joy, excitement and optimism for the future when I do this. No longer do I feel alone on the front lines of defending wellness therapies and vying for business—instead, I feel the vibrant support of institutions carefully researching our craft and with their publications creating massive PR from which everyone benefits!

If you’re now persuaded, please tune in to current research by going to and reading a few publications. Then send a few links to fellow practitioners who live out of state to get them up to speed about respected studies that support their work. If everyone who reads this article takes an hour to explore and forward links to friends and colleagues, thousands of publications could be shared. Use this information practically as well by compiling a binder in your waiting area of studies that support your work. After all, who doesn’t need more unbiased support?

Please join me in a conversation on research and overall bodywork economics at my bodyworkeconomics page on Facebook. Happy fall!


One response to “The Business of Massage – I mean CAM therapies

  1. KC,

    Thanks for sharing your published work! i too get frustrated by people who demand “scientific proof” versus testimonials [i mean, like we’re learning in Marketing, aren’t all businesses ultimately H2H (human to human)]
    Thanks for the term CAM, as well; i didn’t know there was a term that didn’t stigmatize 🙂


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