8 Medical Experts Who Specialize in Massage Therapy Research

Research has shown, and continues to support, the benefits of massage therapy. These eight researchers have made significant headway in the field of massage.

Physicians across the globe increasingly recommend massage therapy to their patients. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service covers 80-100% of massage therapy costs for patients with certain conditions. Here in the United States, over 65% of doctors refer patients who seek information about massage recommend this complementary treatment and refer them to massage therapists.

Medical researchers at top schools nationwide have gathered a growing body of evidence that massage therapy benefits patients with a wide range of symptoms and conditions. People increasingly turn to massage therapy, one of the top 5 complementary therapies in the United States, and about 18 million patients in the United States report using massage therapy.

Many college and university medical schools today support professors and faculty researchers who study the mechanisms and effects of massage therapy. Among them are the following individuals:

  1. Tiffany Field, PhD

For over 30 years, the University of Miami has set the standard for U.S. massage therapy research. In 1992, Dr. Field founded the Touch Research Institute, which employs researchers from top universities like Harvard, Maryland, and Yale. The first of its kind in the world, this organization studies massage therapy’s many applications in science and medicine, as well as its profound health and wellness benefits.

In 2016, Dr. Field (along with colleagues from the Touch Research Institute and the Children’s’ Hospital of Philadelphia) researched the effect of mother to infant massage on sleep quality for both babies and mothers. These experts discovered that a simple 15-minute oil massage before bed led to better sleep for mothers and babies (compared to no-oil massages and a control group that didn’t engage in massage therapy). In a similar 2010 study, Dr. Field and her colleagues discovered preterm babies gained weight faster and increased their bone density when their mothers massaged them with oil.

  1. Maria Hernandez-Reif, PhD

A faculty member at the University of Alabama, Dr. Hernandez-Reif frequently shares her expertise in developmental, cognitive, and behavioral psychology with the Touch Research Institute. An expert in the psychology of infant diet and digestion, she has contributed to many studies involving massage therapy and pediatric care (and over 160 publications, in total).

Dr. Hernandez-Reif has helped the Touch Research Institute identify and optimize specific massage therapy techniques to promote infant health, such as oil massage and moderate (vs. light) pressure.

  1. Miguel Diego, PhD

A pediatric specialist at the University of Miami, Dr. Diego has worked on over 125 research projects. In addition to studying the effects of massage therapy on infants, he has studied the use of massage therapy to treat arthritis pain in the hands, neck, and knees. Dr. Diego studies the psychological effects of complementary therapies like massage therapy, yoga, and tai chi on mothers with postpartum depression and their infants. He has collaborated with Dr. Field on many Touch Research Institute studies.

  1. Marlaine Smith, PhD

Dr. Smith serves as the Dean of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing. As a registered nurse and a professor, she has worked to expand the theory of nursing and increase the body of knowledge about massage therapy in nursing environments. She studies many holistic healing methods, such as touch therapy, reiki, and jin shin, among others.

At the University of Colorado School of Nursing, Dr. Smith leads research teams in foundational studies of massage therapies in hospital settings. She discovered that massage therapy facilitated patients’ recovery times, mobility, and energy. When working with cancer patients, Dr. Smith and her colleagues learned massage therapy reduces pain, increases sleep quality, soothes anxiety, and improves distressing symptoms.

  1. Justin Crane, PhD

As a doctoral researcher at Canada’s McMaster University Department of Kinesiology, Dr. Crane led a study (arranged by Dr. Melov) into the biochemical mechanisms of massage. With his colleagues, he showed that massage therapy reduced inflammation in young men with muscle damage caused by exercise.

More importantly, Dr. Crane’s team discovered why muscle injury patients benefitted from massage treatments on a cellular level. They found that massage therapy helps people with skeletal muscle injuries by:

  • Triggering mitochondrial biogenesis (cellular repair and growth)
  • Reducing inflammatory cytokines in muscle cells
  • Decreasing heat shock protein phosphorylation
  • Mitigating cellular stress from myofiber injuries

Dr. Crane currently studies the cellular biochemistry of aging at Boston’s Northeastern University. He focuses on the skin, muscle, and connective tissues targeted for healing by massage therapists.

  1. Simon Melov, PhD

Dr. Melov earned his doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of London. Before he and his colleagues founded the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in 1999, he worked at Emory University and the University of Colorado.

In collaboration with Dr. Crane’s McMaster research team, Dr. Melov and his colleague Alan Hubbard studied the cellular and biochemical foundations of massage for skeletal muscle patients. He highlighted massage therapy’s potential to reduce inflammation and promote healing as well as the possibility it could target the same cellular mechanisms as prescription painkillers.

  1. Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD

Dr. Tarnopolsky serves as the Director of McMaster University’s Neuromuscular and Neurometabolic Clinic and the CEO of the Exerkine corporation. He has published over 390 scholarly articles in his quest to heal people with symptoms of neuromuscular ailments and aging.

As a professor at McMaster University’s Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, Dr. Tarnopolsky oversaw Dr. Crane’s study. He stated that massage therapy can benefit patients dealing with the effects of aging, musculoskeletal injuries, and inflammatory diseases.

  1. Adam Perlman, MD, MPH

Dr. Perlman, the Executive Director of Duke Integrative Medicine, works with students as an Associate Professor of Medicine. In addition to performing many leadership roles in the complementary therapy academic community, he continues to research the efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments.

Recently, Dr. Perlman received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the use of massage therapy for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Not only did his research team find that massage therapy decreased pain and increased range of motion, they also optimized the treatment protocol for this disease. They determined an hour of massage therapy each week was the best application of massage therapy treatments for OA patients.

A Wealth of Scientific Knowledge

Though countries like Russia have a long history of medical research into massage therapy, U.S. scientists have begun to close the gap. In recent decades, experts at many universities across the nation have dedicated their careers to proving the efficacy and multiple benefits of massage therapy.

Ask your physician how you can use massage therapy as part of your treatment plan. This popular complementary therapy offers pain relief, healing, and many other benefits, and it may ultimately reduce your need for prescription drugs.


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  4. Field, T., Diego, M., & Hernandez-Reif, M. (2010). Preterm infant massage therapy research: a review. Infant behavior and development, 2010, 33(2), 115–124. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.12.004
  5. Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Deeds, O., & Figuereido, B. (2006). Moderate versus light pressure massage therapy leads to greater weight gain in preterm infants. Infant behavior and development, 29(4), 574–578. doi:  10.1016/j.infbeh.2006.07.011
  6. Field, T., Gonzalez, G., Diego, M., & Mindell, J. (2016). Mothers massaging their newborns with lotion versus no lotion enhances mothers’ and newborns’ sleep. Infant behavior and development, 45a, 31-37.
  7. Florida Atlantic University. (n.d.). Biography: Marlaine Smith. Retrieved from http://nursing.fau.edu/directory/smith/index.php
  8. McMaster University. (2012). Massage is promising for muscle recovery: McMaster researchers find 10 minutes reduces inflammation. Retrieved from https://fhs.mcmaster.ca/main/news/news_2012/massage_therapy_study.html
  9. Melov, S. (2013). Identifying molecular hallmarks of aging to guide the development of anti-aging therapies. Retrieved from http://www.buckinstitute.org/melovLab
  10. Crane, J., Ogborn, D., Cupido, C., Melov, S., Hubbard, A., Bourgeois, J., &
  11. Tarnopolsky, M. (2012). Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science translational medicine, 4(119).
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  13. Perlman, A., Ali A, Njike, V., Hom, D., Davidi, A., Gould-Fogerite, S., … Katz, D. (2012) Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS one, 7(2). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030248
  14. Science Daily. (2012). Massage reduces inflammation and promotes growth of new mitochondria following strenuous exercise, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201141710.htm
  15. Smith, M., Stallings, M., Mariner, S., & Burrall, M. (1999). Benefits of massage therapy for hospitalized patients: a descriptive and qualitative evaluation. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 5(4), 64-71.
  16. Smith, M., Kemp, J., Hemphill, L., & Vojir, C. (2002). Outcomes of therapeutic massage for hospitalized cancer patients. Journal of nursing scholarship, 34(3), 257-62.
  17. Touch Research Institute. (n.d.). History of the touch research institute. Retrieved from https://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/About.html
  18. University of Miami. (2016). Research Profiles: Miguel A. Diego. Retrieved from https://miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/persons/miguel-a-diego/publications
  19. University of Miami Health System. (2017). Profile – Tiffany M. Field. Retrieved from http://uhealthsystem.com/researchers/profile/2581

Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain Now Recommended Before Drugs

On February 14, 2017, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released a clinical practice guideline recommending physicians prescribe massage therapy and other non-opioid interventions for back pain before opioid drugs. This recommendation represents a significant shift in the United States medical community’s guidelines toward massage therapy and pharmaceuticals.

According to the Penn State Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, more than 80% of people will feel lower back pain at some point in their lives. Physicians often find it difficult to identify the causes of this condition, which may include a vast array of injuries and diseases such as:

  • Muscle strain
  • Ligament damage
  • Ruptured or bulging discs
  • Arthritis
  • Scoliosis
  • Osteoporosis

Because of the difficulty of identifying and treating the root cause of lower back pain, painkillers are a common treatment for managing the pain. However, the most effective painkillers—called opioids—carry major risks, including overdose and addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sales of prescription opioid drugs quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, and nearly 20% of people treated for non-cancer related pain are prescribed opioids.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids exist naturally in your body as endorphins and transmit messages between your nerve cells (and in your digestive system). Opioid pain medications bind to cells’ opiate receptors, blocking pain signals headed to the brain. In strong concentrations, these chemicals can cause euphoria, confusion, sleepiness, nausea, constipation, and respiratory problems.

Because opioids affect the brain areas involving pain, pleasure, and reward, people may become addicted to the drugs, especially after recreational use. Patients prescribed painkillers can also become addicted to these chemicals. They may continue taking opiates after the pain subsides, ingest more than the recommended dosages, and purchase these drugs illegally when their prescriptions run out. Some people addicted to prescription painkillers eventually switch from prescription opioid drugs to heroin or other opioids such as codeine or morphine.

New Treatment Guidelines from the American College of Physicians

To understand the new ACP treatment recommendations, you need to know the three terms doctors use to define lower back pain—not how bad it hurts, but how long it lasts:

  • Acute: Pain lasting less than 4 weeks
  • Subacute: Pain lasting 4-12 weeks
  • Chronic: Pain lasting more than 12 weeks

Duration plays a major role in treatment decisions, because many lower back pain episodes may go away on their own. In a few days or weeks, your body may heal itself, making further treatment unnecessary.

To curb the rising number of opioid prescriptions for lower back pain, the ACP offers three suggestions:

  1. Patients with acute and subacute lower back pain that may go away on its own should try massage therapy, acupuncture, heat, and spinal manipulation. People who prefer the pharmaceutical approach can try anti-inflammatory drugs and spinal muscle relaxants.
  2. Patients with chronic back pain should first seek out non-pharmaceutical activities like yoga and tai chi and mental interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  3. Patients with chronic back pain that does not improve after first trying non-pharmaceutical treatments should only consider using opioid pain medication after trying out non-steroidal or anti-inflammatory drugs and discussing the risks with their doctors.

Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP, former president and current board member of the American College of Physicians still cautions against opioid treatment.

“Physicians should consider opioids as a last option for treatment and only in patients with chronic low back pain who have failed other therapies,” Damle said. “[Opioids] are associated with substantial harms, including the risk of addiction or accidental overdose.”


  1. American College of Physicians. (2017, February). Summaries for patients: noninvasive treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain. Annals of internal medicine. doi:7326/P17-9032
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, December 20). Prescribing data. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, June). Back pain: causes. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/basics/causes/con-20020797
  4. National Institutes of Health. (2016, August). Misuse of prescription drugs: which classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/which-classes-prescription-drugs-are-commonly-misused
  5. com. (n.d.). Opiate vs. opioid – what’s the difference? Retrieved from http://opium.com/derivatives/opiate-vs-opioid-whats-difference/
  6. Patrick, N., Emanski. W., & Knab, M. (2016). Acute and chronic low back pain. Medical clinics of North America, 100(1), 169-81. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2015.08.015.
  7. Qaseem, A., Wilt, T., McLean, R., & Forciea, M. (2017, February). Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of internal medicine. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367

Best of 2016: Massagetique‘s Top 10 Massage Therapy YouTube Channels

According to industry data released by the American Massage Therapy Association, more than half of people who get a massage do so for medical reasons. Many people assume massage therapy is all about relieving stress, but massage is also an important part of injury recovery, great for pain management, and helpful for many conditions that negatively impact the musculoskeletal system.

Because of the wide range of reasons people will choose to get a massage, it’s more important than ever for massage therapists to explore and master the many techniques that can help their clients. Remaining open to new methods and techniques can make your services more valuable to a variety of people who need massage therapy.

With many massage and bodywork resources online, both massage therapists and those seeking massage have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Online resources can be greatly beneficial for professionals seeking to expand their skills and the techniques they offer as well as for consumers who would like to find out which type of massage may work best for them. For visual learners, YouTube is an excellent resource for learning about additional types of massage.

Massagetique encourages consumers and massage therapists to take full advantage of online resources to learn how to best serve themselves and their clients. To help you in your journey to relaxation and healing, we have compiled the following YouTube channels dedicated to massage therapy techniques and bodywork tutorials. Presented in no particular order, these channels were selected based on quality of content, ease of presentation, and value of information.

    • Rebel Massage Therapist: Allison, the creator of the popular YouTube channel Rebel Massage and owner of the Rebel Massage Therapist website, has been posting massage tutorial videos on YouTube for about a year. She has more than 15 years of experience as a massage therapist and shares a variety of helpful videos on massage therapy techniques.

  • Massage Nerd: Ryan Hoyme, the brain behind the Massage Nerd YouTube channel and website, started working as a massage therapist in 1989. He created Massage Nerd to share the knowledge he has gained and techniques he has worked on throughout his career as a massage therapist. His YouTube channel has more than 100,000 subscribers and shares a variety of massage-related content.

  • Massage Sloth: This YouTube channel, created by Ian Harvey, provides massage tutorials, tips, and marketing information for massage therapists. A sloth named Leaf can sometimes be seen in the background of his videos.

  • Erik Dalton: Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT), a pain management treatment modality developed by Erik Dalton, is the focus of many videos on this popular YouTube channel. His videos have more than 5 million views and cover a wide range of topics for massage therapists and bodywork professionals.

  • Bodyology Massage School: This YouTube channel was created by the Bodyology Massage School based in London. The videos hosted on the school’s YouTube channel encourage massage therapists to consider an individual’s needs and place them at the center of each unique treatment plan.

  • Co-Creative Healing: Stephanie Shrum, the massage therapist responsible for Co-Creative Healing, has been studying massage therapy since 1992. Many of her YouTube videos demonstrate the advanced knowledge Shrum has gained over her years studying and applying deep tissue massage, craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, and other techniques.

  • Massage Therapy Foundation: The Massage Therapy Foundation works toward the important goal of advancing the knowledge and practice of massage therapy. The organization’s dedication to sharing the latest scientific research through creative means, such as its YouTube series “Research Perch,” is what prompted Massagetique to include the foundation on this list of top massage therapy YouTube channels.

  • PsycheTruth: Although PsycheTruth is about much more than massage therapy, its YouTube channel—with more than 1.7 million subscribers—features many useful massage-related videos. These massage therapy videos are likely to be beneficial for seasoned massage therapy professionals and others who simply want to learn more about massage therapy.

  • Massage By Heather: Heather Wibbels, LMT, is a massage therapist practicing in Louisville, Kentucky. She also created a popular YouTube channel in 2010 that now has more than 42,000 subscribers and 7.6 million views. The videos she uploads contain comprehensive explanations and demonstrations of a range of topics, including facial massage, manual lymph drainage, and foot massage techniques.

Have a favorite massage therapy or bodywork YouTube channel and don’t see it here? Please send us a message and let us know about it.


  1. Industry Fact Sheet. (2016, February). Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html

Announcing the Official Launch of Massagetique

We are pleased to announce the official launch of Massagetique, a new online directory of licensed massage therapists and practitioners in the United States. Through Massagetique, we hope to contribute to a healthier, happier world one healing massage at a time.

Massagetique was founded by the team at GoodTherapy.org, a mission-based leading online psychotherapist directory. We’re devoted to the curative aspects of self-care, and our mission is to connect massage practitioners with people seeking treatment, relaxation, or healing from any physical burdens.

Everyone deserves to feel good, and massage therapy has been proven to alleviate tension, stress, and pain. In addition to connecting people with massage providers, Massagetique helps uphold individual wellness plans, supports massage therapists in their goal of providing high-quality care, and educates people about the many benefits of massage and bodywork. In such a busy world full of hard work and responsibilities, it is important for people to slow down occasionally and focus on taking care of themselves. We encourage everyone to view massage therapy not as a luxury, but as a method of healing and self-care.

If you’re looking to enhance your business, Massagetique offers two membership options. A Basic Membership is completely free, and benefits include unlimited referrals and access to performance metrics on your profile. We know you want to spend as much time with clients as possible, so let Massagetique do the heavy lifting for you by increasing exposure and optimizing profiles to be more easily found online.

With our Premium Membership—which you can join for a limited-time offer of $1 per month for the next six months—massage practitioners can access these additional benefits:

  • Enhanced profile: Add as many as eight pictures to showcase your massage space and amenities to people seeking a massage therapist.
  • Featured placement in search results: See your profile at the top of search results with priority placement in our directory.
  • Advanced performance tracking: Receive additional information about people viewing your profile, including any available caller ID information from missed or dropped calls.
  • Publication opportunities: Share your personal expertise and increase your credibility by submitting articles for publication consideration on the Massagetique Blog.

If you’re looking to enjoy a massage, search our directory to find massage practitioners in your area, browse our resources to learn more about types of massage techniques, and read our blog for helpful information and tips from licensed massage therapists.

If you’re a massage and bodywork professional interested in joining our directory, please take a look at the membership benefits for both Basic Membership and Premium Membership to decide which is right for you.

We believe massage is something everyone can benefit from, and we look forward to assisting you in your journey to achieve whole-body wellness.