Massage & Bodywork

November | December 2014

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F r e e m u s i c d o w n l o a d s f o r C e r t i f i e d m e m b e r s : w w w. a b m p . c o m / g o / c e r t i f i e d c e n t r a l 53 SOMATIC RESE ARCH analysis would be at the very peak. These reviews are the strongest types of articles you can read. A recent meta-analysis by L. Wang and others assessed massage for preterm infants. 6 A total of 611 articles were retrieved, with 17 eligible for review. The researchers found that "massage intervention improved daily weight gain by 5.32 grams and reduced length of [hospital] stay by 4.41 days." The data presented in this statement were a compilation of the data from the 17 articles, making the results stronger than any one article standing alone. BIAS WITHIN REVIEW ARTICLES Many factors can affect the results of a review article. For example, if the original research reviewed has flaws such as small sample size, then the results of the review article cannot be trusted. Some people call this "garbage in, garbage out." Also, if there is a lot of heterogeneity (differences) in the original articles, the results may be muddied. For example, an author may review research on massage therapy for headaches and include articles on tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches in the same review. In this case, the original articles are studying very different conditions and the results cannot be lumped together. One of the biggest issues in review articles is publication bias. Think about what articles get published in scientific journals: interesting articles with significant findings. But what happens to articles that do not have interesting results— perhaps articles where there was no difference in outcomes between groups? Sometimes they never get published! So, when someone is trying to review the literature for articles on a given topic, they might only be looking at the portion of articles with positive results because those are the articles that got published. Had the articles with nonsignificant results also been published, the results of some review articles might be very different. CONCLUSION Practicing massage therapists are busy people and many do not have the time to read all research articles published on a given topic. Review articles are great ways to get caught up on the current information in a succinct manner. They offer a great deal of information in one place, and can provide input on which original research studies might be worth reading based on the quality score. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are also well respected by other health-care professionals. Sharing these types of reviews may improve other health-care professionals' understanding and impressions of the massage therapy field. Notes 1. Christopher A. Moyer et al., "Does Massage Therapy Reduce Cortisol? A Comprehensive Quantitative Review," Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 15, no. 1 (2011): 3–14. 2. Marybetts Sinclair, "The Use of Abdominal Massage to Treat Chronic Constipation," Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 15, no. 4 (2011): 436–45. 3. Myeong Soo Lee, Jong-In Kim, and Edzard Ernst, "Massage Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review," Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 72, no. 3 (2011): 406–11. 4. Jenny Sau-Lai Chan and Sonny Hing-Min Tse, "Massage as Therapy for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities: A Review of the Literature," Journal of Intellectual Disabilities 15, no. 1 (2011): 47–62. 5. Wendy Moyle et al., "The Effect of Massage on Agitated Behaviours in Older People with Dementia: A Literature Review," Journal of Clinical Nursing 22, no. 5–6 (2013): 601–10. 6. L. Wang, J. L. He, and X. H. Zhang, "The Efficacy of Massage on Preterm Infants: A Meta-Analysis," American Journal of Perinatology 30, no. 9 (2013): 731–8. Jerrilyn Cambron, DC, PhD, MPH, LMT, is an educator at the National University of Health Sciences and president of the Massage Therapy Foundation. Contact her at

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