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Three myths about massage research

Today, the author of the article, a scientist, massage therapist and teacher, will tell you about the three most common misconceptions related to scientific research in the field of massage. So, let’s begin!

First myth

Research cannot be trusted because they are all contradictory – at first they say something is good for health, after a couple of weeks it is called bad, and so on. In fact, everything is not so simple. Any science is based on evidence and evidence, which is constantly increasing. It is extremely rare that one study provides a clear answer to a question without casting a shadow of doubt on the results. Most scientific works are guided by the results of earlier studies: they expand the knowledge accumulated by scientists.

That is why a significant part of a scientific article in a journal usually takes the answer to the question “So what?” – the authors explain why their article is so important, what new information it gives to specialists in a particular field, how it helps to expand the knowledge base accumulated over many years, and how it relates to existing ideas about the subject and object of research.

The next thing that is important to understand is that science can correct its own mistakes; it is always open to new information obtained as a result of research. In the history of science, one can meet many examples when the views and beliefs of the past generation of scientists were completely refuted by the results of research of the next generation.

When we receive new information, we develop a more detailed, accurate idea of ​​a particular phenomenon and eventually reject false or erroneous ideas about it. If people managed to become emotionally attached to erroneous views on the picture of the world, this process can take more than a dozen (or even a hundred) years.

Some issues related to complex and multifaceted scientific topics, for example, the effect of nutrition on physiological processes occurring in the human body, often require the continued work of scientists and a series of related but lengthy studies that systematically study one big question. Each subsequent study should be based on the results of the previous one.

Often, research results pose scientists with even more new questions and challenges. Even more often, the results of research on one issue using different methods by several scientists turn out to be different, and sometimes completely contradictory to each other. This is one of the reasons why scientists conduct many different studies on the same topic, and why it is so important to read the section of the article devoted to the research methodology. Just try to read the results of studies on the relationship of the human genetic profile and individual reactions to various medical interventions, and you will understand why it is so difficult. Sometimes, before making unambiguous conclusions, scientists and doctors have to wait for the accumulation of the proper amount of information.

Second myth

Randomized controlled research is the gold standard of science. In fact, RCTs are really ideal for answering questions such as, for example, whether one treatment technique is more effective than another, whether factors such as the placebo effect or positive expectations play in the course of treatment of the study participants, or not, and so on. . However, scientists are not only looking for answers to such questions. For example, if the research topic has not yet been sufficiently studied, usually observational (observational), descriptive (descriptive), or qualitative studies are conducted – experiments are not suitable for such purposes.

Of course, RCTs give very accurate experimental results, but nevertheless they are one of the last stages of studying a certain topic. A well-designed randomized controlled trial is based on data from previous studies. In recent years, RCTs have been supplanted by systematic reviews — critical analyzes of a number of studies on the same topic. In medicine, the most accurate reviews that specifically answer the question “Does this work?” Are Cochrane’s systematic reviews. But this is far from the only question of concern to specialists, and in some situations it is simply impossible to get an answer to it. All types of research have their strengths and weaknesses.

There is no point in building a hierarchy of types of scientific research according to their effectiveness or reliability – it is much more important to understand that some types of scientific research complement others. Some researchers present the entire totality of types of scientific research in the form of a circle, rather than a vertical of efficiency (1). It is this approach to the typology of scientific research that is suitable for use in such complex and multifaceted areas as massage. The total amount of information on any topic is being accumulated thanks to a wide variety of studies, which ultimately makes the evidence base more reliable and stronger.

Third myth

Too few high-quality studies have been conducted on massage efficacy to be considered one of the methods….

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