By Pete Whitridge

Welcome to summer! The weather has heated up and so has the pace as we head into the final months of the 2017-2019 licensure renewal period. Are you renewal ready?

As I mentioned in my last article, Lee and I attended the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) Research Conference in Alexandria, VA in May. I felt wonderfully affirmed as numerous presenters spoke about using massage therapy for pain reduction, reducing opioid intake by substituting massage and heat instead of drugs, and using myofascial massage to support breast cancer survivors suffering from chronic pain and mobility limitations. I’m looking forward to sharing various conference findings related to the upper body in my August workshop, Myofascial Components of Head, Neck and Shoulder Pain.

A few quick takeaways from the conference:

  • Researchers and healthcare professionals are very interested to incorporate massage therapy into their integrative care systems, especially in the VA and on military bases.
  • Massage is being integrated into most cancer care centers for clients, family members.
  • Self-care massage is an important post-surgical treatment for long-term improvement. It is cost-effective, has low risks for the patient, and allows physicians to use treatments that are non-pharmacological in nature.

There are some interesting new research methods emerging for measuring the effects of manual therapies. For example, Dr. Mark Rapaport, Department Chair at Emory University, worked in collaboration with Atlanta School of Massage students. The students offered one hour Swedish massages and researchers took samples of each subject’s blood before, during, and after the massage (via a port). The results showed positive changes in the clients’ cortisol levels and inflammatory cytokines, as well as favorable changes in other blood markers. This study is unique and will stimulate more research along these lines. The research will need to be replicated and expanded to larger populations in order to validate these preliminary findings.

Dr. Rapaport also talked about using massage therapy to help people with Generalized Anxiety Disorders. His comments about using massage to help clients move from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance were very validating for me since this has been a main theme in my teachng.

MTF President Doug Nelson shared an interesting case study he conducted using simple touch on the back of a neurologically challenged client to help the client develop better interoception. I’m excited to demonstrate how Doug performed the tests and we will try to replicate this interesting research method in August.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Helene Langevin, recently appointed director of the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health at the NIH, received a standing ovation for her talk on the importance of attending to the connective tissues during massage. She demonstrated her work using ultrasound to capture the mechanism of sliding between the fascial layers. She explained the necessity of unrestricted sliding between the layers for optimal health and mobility. She also spoke of the importance of stretching connective tissues during wound healing to accelerate recovery and reduce inflammatory cytokines in the whole system.

Being a research nerd, I was in my element at this conference. But what I find most interesting is that the findings are validating observations I’ve made for many years in my practice. I love putting this knowledge to good use during sessions with my clients and sharing it with my colleagues. I hope you’ll join me next month for Myofascial Components of Head, Neck and Shoulder Pain where we will be focusing on the connective tissues and exploring some of these aforementioned topics such as interoception, moving clients from sympathetic to parasympathetic response, and much more. For information, please contact me at or (772) 332-6116

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