What is a Systematic Review?
Systematic reviews are used as part of an evidence-based model of care to help identify and evaluate existing research for a specific topic.
Conducting a systematic review is a complex process. This specific type of research, requires a number of different experts each with their own specialized background.
First researchers will pick a particular topic - for examples sake we would say, ‘the use of massage therapy for low back pain’. Then the researchers comb through research databases to find studies from around the world carried out on that subject.
After the search is completed the articles are evaluated based on a pre-defined inclusion criteria. Then articles are separated by those that meet pre-defined criteria and those that do not meet the pre-defined criteria.
The research articles that meet the pre-defined criteria are then picked apart for potential biases that may have snuck into the study.
There are a number of ways that biases sneak into research, for massage therapy one of the primary sources of bias is due to therapist and patient blinding (this is hard to control for).
In addition to evaluating studies for potential biases, researchers are looking for potential harms, and treatment effect size. Essentially, does this treatment work, and how does it compare to a placebo/sham intervention.
Watch The Video For a More In-depth Explanation
There was a short introduction to systematic reviews, I hope you found it useful. If you want a more in-depth explanation I recommend watching the video from Healthcare Triage posted below.
A List of Systematic Reviews of Massage Therapy
Ten years ago there were very few systematic reviews of massage therapy, in 2018 there has been a steady increase in the number of systematic reviews of massage.
Based on these systematic reviews massage therapy has a growing body of evidence supporting its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving health-related quality of life in a variety of health conditions and rehabilitation, including but not limited to:
• Chronic Pain (Busse et al. 2017, Crawford et al. 2016, Skelly et al. 2018)
• Low Back Pain (Chou et al. 2017, Qaseem et al. 2017)
• Neck Pain (Chou et al. 2018, Côté et al. 2016)
• Headaches and Migraines (Busse et al. 2017, Côté et al. 2019)
• Temporomandibular Disorder (Martins et al. 2016, Randhawa et al. 2016)
• Shoulder Pain (Hawk et al. 2017, Steuri, et al. 2017, Yeun 2017)
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Huisstede et al. 2018)
• Lateral Epicondylitis (Sutton et al. 2016)
• Arthritis (Nelson et al. 2017)
• Hip Osteoarthritis (Cibulka et al. 2017, Skelly et al. 2018)
• Knee Osteoarthritis (Busse et al. 2017, Newberry et al. 2017)
• Plantar Fasciitis (Fraser et al. 2018)
• Chronic Ankle Instability (Powden et al. 2017)
• Surgical Pain Population (Boitor et al. 2017, Boyd et al. 2016, Kukimoto et al. 2017)
• Cancer-Related Fatigue (Hilfiker et al. 2018)
• Cancer Pain Population (Boyd et al. 2016)
• Fibromyalgia (Busse et al. 2017, Skelly et al. 2018, Yuan et al. 2015)
• Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (Dupuy et al. 2018, Guo et al. 2017)
• Postpartum Maternal Sleep (Owais et al. 2018)
• Pain Management in Labour (Smith et al. 2018)
• Antenatal Depression (Smith et al. 2018)
• Hypertrophic Scarring (Ault et al. 2018)
• Palliative Care (Zeng et al. 2018)
• Dementia (Margenfeld et al. 2019)
More to Explore
Ault et al. (2018). Scar massage for hypertrophic burns scarring-A systematic review. Burns.
Boitor et al. (2017). The Effect of Massage on Acute Postoperative Pain in Critically and Acutely Ill Adults Post-thoracic Surgery: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Heart Lung.
Boyd et al. (2016). The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part III, Surgical Pain Populations. Pain Med.
Boyd et al. (2016). The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part II, Cancer Pain Populations. Pain Med.
Busse et al. (2017). Guideline for opioid therapy and chronic noncancer pain. CMAJ.
Chou et al. (2017). Nonpharmacologic Therapies for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review for an American College of Physicians Clinical Practice Guideline. Ann Intern Med.
Chou et al. (2018). The Global Spine Care Initiative: applying evidence-based guidelines on the non-invasive management of back and neck pain to low- and middle-income communities. Eur Spine J.
Cibulka et al. (2017). Hip Pain and Mobility Deficits-Hip Osteoarthritis: Revision 2017. JOSPT.
Côté et al. (2016). Management of neck pain and associated disorders: A clinical practice guideline from the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. Eur Spine J.
Côté et al. (2019). Non-pharmacological Management of Persistent Headaches Associated with Neck Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. Eur J Pain.
Crawford et al. (2016). The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population. Pain Med.
Cumplido-Trasmonte et al. (2018). Manual therapy in adults with tension-type headache: A systematic review. Neurologia.
Dupuy et al. (2018). An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol.
Falsiroli Maistrello et al. (2018). Effectiveness of Trigger Point Manual Treatment on the Frequency, Intensity, and Duration of Attacks in Primary Headaches: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Front Neurol.
Fraser et al. (2018). Does manual therapy improve pain and function in patients with plantar fasciitis? A systematic review. J Man Manip Ther.
Guo et al. (2017). Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol.
Hawk et al. (2017). Systematic Review of Nondrug, Nonsurgical Treatment of Shoulder Conditions. J Manipulative Physiol Ther.
Hilfiker et al. (2018). Exercise and other non-pharmaceutical interventions for cancer-related fatigue in patients during or after cancer treatment: a systematic review incorporating an indirect-comparisons meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med.
Huisstede et al. (2018). The Effectiveness of Surgical and Post-Surgical Interventions for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-A Systematic Review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil.
Kukimoto et al. (2017). The Effects of Massage Therapy on Pain and Anxiety after Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Pain Manag Nurs.
Martins et al. (2016). Efficacy of musculoskeletal manual approach in the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorder: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Manual Therapy.
Margenfeld et al. (2019). Manual massage for persons living with dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Nurs Stud.
Nelson & Churilla (2017). Massage Therapy for Pain and Function in Patients With Arthritis: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Am J Phys Med Rehabil.
Newberry et al. (2017). Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee: An Update Review. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US)
Owais et al. (2018). Non-pharmacological interventions for improving postpartum maternal sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev.
Powden et al. (2017). Rehabilitation and Improvement of Health-Related Quality-of-Life Detriments in Individuals With Chronic Ankle Instability: A Meta-Analysis. J Athl Train.
Qaseem et al. (2017). Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med.
Randhawa et al. (2016). The Effectiveness of Non-invasive Interventions for Temporomandibular Disorders. The Clinical Journal of Pain.
Skelly et al. (2018). Noninvasive Nonpharmacological Treatment for Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Smith et al. (2018). The effect of complementary medicines and therapies on maternal anxiety and depression in pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord.
Smith et al. (2018). Massage, reflexology and other manual methods for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Steuri et al. (2017). Effectiveness of conservative interventions including exercise, manual therapy and medical management in adults with shoulder impingement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs. Br J Sports Med.
Sutton et al. (2016). Multimodal care for the management of musculoskeletal disorders of the elbow, forearm, wrist and hand: A systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration.
Yeun (2017) Effectiveness of massage therapy for shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Phys Ther Sci.
Yuan et al. (2015). Effectiveness of different styles of massage therapy in fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Man Ther.
Zeng et al. (2018). Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Hospice and Palliative Care: A Systematic Review. J Pain Symptom Manage.