The Culture of Massage Therapy

There doesnít seem to be a properly defined and widely accepted identity and culture for Massage Therapy (MT). This can be challenging when dealing with marketing, patient referrals, business models, and the general inclusion of MT into the Health Care landscape. I found an interesting study when I was searching around for articles on the topic, called The Culture of Massage Therapy: valued elements and the role of comfort, contact, connection, and caring.

As far as research quality goes, this one isnít the best. It was a telephone interview with 19 participants. 19 is quite small if youíre looking to get information that would apply to a whole demographic. Studies of this size are usually done as a trial, to test the questionnaire, study design, and determine if there are any problems. If things go well, many times they will recommend that a larger scale study be funded. In this case, the 19 people were all repeat users of Massage Therapy. The researchers were seeking to learn about which aspects of the Massage Therapy session the users valued.

What was of interest was that the study identified several elements to the culture of Massage Therapy, including the 4 modulators listed in the studyís title. The 4 modulators (comfort, contact, connection, and caring) sum up the big picture of what the participants were valuing in the MT experience quite well. Logically, if the participant received all 4 of the modulators, then they would probably want to come back to the same Massage Therapist.

Massage Therapy is hands-on, and is intended to affect the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. Interestingly, only 1 of the 4 items was suggestive of the physical contact that the therapy would entail. MT training is focused mostly on the knowledge and skills necessary to provide the actual therapy. Itís intriguing that the study found that contact, which would be seemingly the most important factor, was just 25% of the total experience.

The other 3 modulators which are comfort, connection, and caring, are related more to the clinic space and the relationship between the MT and the patient. It is clear that these areas are of high importance to the success of the patientís therapy and also the success of the MTís business. Many health care businesses, like MT, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Nautropath, etc. sustain themselves through patientís repeat visits. It is therefore necessary for the Massage Therapist to study these other topics thoroughly, and regularly do a check of how well they are applying them to their practice.