Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2009

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EVALUATE RESEARCH RELEVANCE In the last column, we looked at methods for locating research articles relevant to a particular massage practice situation. In our scenario, an older male client, who comes to you regularly for massage, was living with arthritis pain and asked you for recommendations—specifically, whether massage could be useful in supporting his health goal of minimizing pain medication. You considered that, since massage was effective for musculoskeletal pain, it may be effective for osteoarthritis (OA) as well. We found an article about the effect of massage on reducing arthritis pain: "Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Controlled Trial," by A.I. Perlman et al.1 Finally, we left off with questions for evaluating the article's relevance. Now we can turn to the questions and compare notes. While I've given my answers here, many questions leave room for interpretation, based on different experiences in practice; consider factors that could account for these differences. I'd love to hear about your answers. Send your comments to researching.massage@gmail.com. EXTRACT THE BASICS We asked a few questions about the article's basic elements. Why did the researchers do this study (from the Introduction)? What is their research question? Does their context mean anything to my practice? Perlman et al. conducted this study in order to "evaluate … the effectiveness of massage therapy for OA." Their assumption was that massage would provide significant and detectable improvement, much in the same way as in their assertion that "[m]assage therapy has been evaluated and found to be effective for various painful musculoskeletal conditions." They determined that a sample size of 66 subjects provided enough statistical power to detect a 20-point difference in pain scale scores between intervention and control groups at eight weeks; they recruited 68 participants. Their context is very close to our scenario, and it sounds like the researchers have taken care to create a study large enough to generate reliable results that may generalize well. For these reasons, this study is likely to be very relevant to our practice. PATIENT, INTERVENTION, COMPARISON, OUTCOME Relevance of research is driven by how well the patient, intervention, comparison, and outcome (PICO) of the study relates to our own PICO question. We asked: how does their PICO compare to ours (from the Introduction)? The comparison is illustrated in Image 1, page 129. connect with your colleagues on massageprofessionals.com 127

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