NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.
Read Original Story

Ah, there’s the rub: Medicine catches up with what clients always knew about the health benefits of massage

Rating

3 Star

Ah, there’s the rub: Medicine catches up with what clients always knew about the health benefits of massage

Our Review Summary

The story discusses massage therapy for physical and emotional well-being. One of the reasons massage isn’t covered as frequently by insurance as other alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and spinal manipulation, is that there is relatively little evidence of benefit in well controlled studies. The article implies that the problem is licensing. Massage proponents argue that licensure might lead to insurance coverage. But the story doesn’t discuss the lack of studies examining massage for certain conditions compared to placebo and active treatments. Personal testaments should not be enough to drive health care policy in a time when health care costs are rising – at least in part because of the widespread use of tests and treatments of limited or no value.

It is likely that massage may be better for certain conditions than others. The fact that there may be benefit in premature infants doesn’t directly translate into adults with shoulder pain. It is also likely that the alternative treatments vary dependent upon the condition. While the story notes that there are medical studies which have looked at the benefits of massage for certain groups of people, no data from these studies are cited.

The story does not mention things that can go wrong during a massage, especially with people who are already injured, or who have orthopedic or other biomechanical issues. Practitioners who are not adequately trained might risk further injury to these massage clients. Oversight of massage practice via licensure might prevent some of these harms; however, the story only focuses on the negative public image of massage (i.e. ties to the adult entertainment industry).

Though the story does not provide the actual cost of massage for those described, it does mention that massage is often not paid for by insurers. Again, one of the points of the article is that by accrediting massage therapists, insurers will be more likely to cover treatment by such providers.

The story cites both a massage therapist and an orthopedic surgeon to provide perspective on the role of massage in prevention and treatment of injury. However, the story is weighted heavily on information from those in the field of massage, so another perspective on massage as possible adjunct to evidence-based treatments would provide balance to the story. As is mentioned, massage has its place, but it is not a panacea.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not provide the actual cost of massage for those uses described. Granted, these costs are likely to vary quite a bit, but the story could have provided a range of costs. The story does explain that massage is often not paid for by insurers. Indeed one of the points of the article is that by accrediting massage therapists, insurers will be more likely to cover treatment by such providers. It would have been useful to know the cost of treatment for the man who had massage for his shoulder (to distinguish from the $120,000 mentioned for surgery).

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story mostly provides personal testaments of the benefits of massage. No studies are cited discussing the role of massage in healing these types of injuries. Quantitative data from one study re: weight gain for premature infants is noted, however, there is no context for these numbers and an incomplete description of this study. The fact that there may be benefit in premature infants doesn’t directly translate into adults with shoulder pain. It also implies that massage is better than physical therapy (PT can include manual techniques such as massage and mobilization – the difference is the person doing it) and spinal manipulation.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story focuses on the many benefits of massage and discusses licensing for practitioners in Michigan. The story does not mention things that can go wrong during a massage, especially with people who are already injured, or who have orthopedic or biomechanical issues. Practitioners who are not adequately trained might increase harms to these massage clients. Oversight via licensure might prevent some of these harms. The story only focuses on the negative public image of massage (i.e. ties to the adult entertainment industry).

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story discusses massage therapy for physical and emotional well-being. It is likely that massage may be better for certain conditions than others. The fact that there may be benefit in premature infants doesn’t directly translate into adults with shoulder pain. One of the reasons massage isn’t covered as frequently by insurance as other alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and spinal manipulation, is that there is relatively little evidence of benefit in well controlled studies. The article implies that the problem is licensing. That may be true to some extent, but a lack of evidence is an important reason as well.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story cites both a massage therapist and an orthopedic surgeon to provide perspective on the role of massage in prevention and treatment of injury. The story weighted heavily on information from those in the field of massage, so another perspective on massage as an adjunct to other treatments would provide balance to the story. As is mentioned, massage has its place, but it is not a panacea and not without some risks.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story focuses only on massage. If people who have had shoulder injuries are interviewed as examples of the healing benefits of massage, then further discussion of how this and other complementary therapies can be integrated with evidence-based medical treatments would be helpful. It is likely that massage may be better for certain conditions than others. It is also likely that the alternative treatments vary dependent upon the condition.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

Massage is widely available, but as the article points out there are no requirements placed upon practitioners of massage therapy. So even though the individuals in this article reported benefit from massage, it is possible or even likely that the benefit they observed may not be generalizable to all massage therapists. There are also different types of massage and again the response may differ based upon the technique. Thus, even though it is widely available, it doesn’t mean that the same type of treatments or the quality of providers are the same in different regions.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

Massage is not a new treatment for relaxation and short-term relief of muscular discomfort.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Information in this story does not appear to be taken directly from a press release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.