Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2012

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The more specific the question, the more targeted SRs are a critical component of evidence-based health care, a topic often discussed in this column. In order for evidence to better inform practice, there must be consensus across a wide range of studies, not just a single study. Specific aims of an SR consist of identifying if sufficient research exists on a particular topic, evaluating the body of research for methodological quality, and determining if cross- study consensus is sufficient to draw meaningful conclusions. SRs can also identify gaps in the evidence that can then be used to inform future studies. A good SR starts with a clearly defined research question; conducts a thorough, systematic search of the literature; rates the quality of all studies that meet the predetermined criteria; and critically presents both positive and negative findings. All this is done with a team of experts, including subject matter experts, reviewers, a librarian, and sometimes a statistician. IDENTIFYING A RESEARCH QUESTION An interesting and productive research question starts with a topic pertinent to a common clinical dilemma or condition. With postoperative somatic therapy, we might be concerned with feasibility (are hospitals willing to provide massage or bodywork to patients) and with outcomes (how does massage benefit postoperative patients). The next step is to clearly define the research question. Which should we explore: massage therapy in general or specific bodywork modalities? Which measures and outcomes will best represent acute care outcomes: reducing pain, relieving stress, or improving function? The more specific the question, the more targeted the search and the greater the possibility for drawing meaningful conclusions.4 To clarify the research question, use a process of defining and refining the population, intervention, comparison, and outcomes, also known as PICO. the search and the greater the possibility for drawing meaningful conclusions. age. Instead of limiting the type of surgery, it makes more sense to limit the population. Until massage is more common in postoperative care hospital units, however, we are interested in people of all ages, ethnicities, and genders following any surgical intervention. Population Identify the characteristics of the population you wish to investigate, specifically the important characteristics of the typical patient: the condition or primary problem, the chief complaints or symptoms, and any added information that might influence the results. Consider age, ethnicity, gender, or groups that define the population, such as athletes, baby boomers, military personnel, twins, etc. These populations will also have several types of surgical interventions specific to their needs. For example, cesarean sections are specific to women between puberty and middle Intervention The intervention identifies the techniques or disciplines used to address postoperative care, the frequency and duration of the care provided, and the qualifications of the person(s) applying the techniques. Massage therapy is a general term used by most researchers, and often incorporates other somatic practices, such as craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage, and neuromuscular therapy. Energy work and techniques that are regulated differently are often segregated, such as aromatherapy, reflexology, reiki, Therapeutic Touch, etc., and can be searched separately. Visit the newly designed ABMP.com. Log in. Explore. Enjoy. 59

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