Current MTF Research Projects

Learn more about currently ongoing MTF-funded research projects

Trauma-Informed and Culturally-Responsive Integrated Massage Therapy (TCI-Massage)

2023 Research Award: $300,000
Jennifer Esala, PhD
Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), St. Paul, Minn.
This grant was funded by a gift from AMTA

CVT has identified a pressing need for effective interventions utilizing trauma-informed approaches to massage therapy for adult torture and war-surviving victims through its extensive work. Alarmingly, there is a significant gap in the research literature regarding culturally-responsive approaches to massage therapy and strategies for integrating language services. This knowledge void is particularly concerning as more than 1.3 million people in the United States alone identify as survivors of torture related to war, incarceration, policing, refugee or asylum-seeking experiences, or domestic brutality. Additionally, millions worldwide need similar support.

“This study has the potential to affect life-changing results for populations in a state of extreme vulnerability, furthering cultural understanding, communication, and appropriate care for those who have experienced trauma and abuse,” said Adrienne F. Asta, President of Massage Therapy Foundation.

Click here to read the press release

Learn more about this study from the short video below:

Ergonomics Project: Phase Two
2023 MTF Project: $30,000

Portia B. Resnick, PhD, ATC, BCTMB
Massage Therapy Foundation, Evanston, Ill.

Phase Two begins summer 2023, and employs the use of wearable sensor technology measuring force output and practitioner surveys. Study participants are being recruited from MassageNet Practice-Based Research Network, a collaborative of therapists and researchers coming together to collect real-world data.

Phase 2 seeks to identify key factors inherent in individual practitioner participants and their work practices to better understand the significance/role those factors play in the development of work-related fatigue.

Objective and subjective data will be collected from massage therapists working in community-based massage therapy settings. Data collection will leverage wearable sensor technology and practitioner surveys.

Participants in the study will wear the sensors for seven days during which they will see their normal client/patient load.  Sensors will be positioned to not interfere with the massage therapy treatment and treatment protocols will be expected to follow the massage therapist’s clinical rationale for that session.  Following each massage session, the massage therapist will fill out a brief questionnaire about the session and the client. Following the seven days of data collection, sensors will be cleaned and returned.  Participants will receive access to their data dashboard to learn more about themselves. Aggregate data from the study will be used by the MTF to assist in developing best practices. The MTF hopes to be a leader in the promotion of practitioner career longevity and sustainability.

Massage Therapy as a Preventative for Post-Irradiation Fibrosis and Neuropathy

2023 MTF Research Award: $187,012
Dr. Geoffrey Bove
Bove Consulting, Kennebunkport, Maine
This grant was funded by a gift from AMTA

Life-extending radiation therapy for cancer can have severe and undesirable effects, including radiating pain and paresthesia, motor limitations, and altered function. Early effects include muscle and vascular damage, such as radiation-induced fibrosis of muscles, nerves, and vessels. Currently, there is no effective preventive/treatment strategy for radiation morbidities. This foundational study explores whether typical manual therapy treatment (massage and mobilization) prevent the fibrosis and thus the pathologies and pathophysiologies caused by radiation. Using an animal model, this will provide evidence that massage therapy is promising in reducing the potential damages caused by radiation therapy.

“This study promises to provide insight into the mechanistic benefits of massage therapy post-cancer irradiation. We are thrilled with  the opportunity to advance research and the evidence-informed practice of therapeutic massage in line with the goals of our Research Agenda,” said Adrienne F. Asta, President, Massage Therapy Foundation.

The study is funded with generous financial support from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). “This is a significant example of AMTA’s leadership in supporting MTF in its mission of advancing foundational, evidence-informed massage therapy practice,” said Michaele M. Colizza, President, AMTA. “This study further expands the growing body of data on massage therapy efficacy for cancer patients receiving radiation treatment.”

Check out the video below to learn more about this grant:

A Feasibility Study Investigating Massage for Pregnant Women Who Have Experienced a Stillbirth
2022 Research Support Grant: $30,000
Sarah Fogarty, PhD
Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia

The study, with Principal Investigators Sarah Fogarty, PhD and Phillipa Hay, PhD, is part of an asynchronous, mirror image second pilot study with the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, creating a larger retrospective individual participant data meta-analysis.

The study will include 75 pregnant women who have previously experienced a stillbirth, which research has shown can increase the woman’s anxiety, fear, and depression. Measuring the feasibility of multiple massage experiences as an adjunct to care for women in an attempt to decrease anxiety, worry, and stress, which may impact the overall pregnancy experience for the mother.

Click here to read the press release

View a short video synopsis of the study below:


Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy (MABT) for Chronic Pain: An Implementation Science Pilot Study

2021 MTF Research Support Grant: $30,000
Kathryn Hansen, ANP-BC

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.

Implementation science research is needed to understand how to successfully implement evidence-based mind-body approaches for the treatment of chronic pain. This is especially needed to better understand how patients use care delivered by massage therapists who are not able to bill insurance, particularly within an interdisciplinary team. Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) is a mind-body approach explicitly designed to reduce symptomatic distress through teaching interoceptive awareness skills for self-care and emotion regulation and can be delivered by massage therapists. This is the first MABT implementation science study, and the first targeting a chronic pain population from the community. This pilot study uses a single-group hybrid implementation-effectiveness design involving mixed methods and repeated measures. The specific aims are to: 1) explore uptake of MABT within the clinic by examining key implementation science outcomes of MABT acceptability, appropriateness, adoption and penetration; and 2) examine the effectiveness of MABT to reduce patient symptomatic distress. Analyses will include descriptive statistics of clinic stakeholder surveys and electronic health record (EHR) data, and content analysis of the qualitative data from the open-ended questions on surveys and focus group interviews. Repeated measures analysis of covariance will be used to analyze change in patient health outcomes. The study results are expected to support a future NIH or PCORI implementation science proposal.

Click here to read the press release.

Click here to for our Research Perch podcast interview with Dr. Hansen.

Massage Service Integration in a Military Primary Care Clinic: Implementation and Impact Study

2019 MTF Research Award: $210,000
Tracy Rupp, PhD (Formerly Krista Highland, PhD)
Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management (DVCIPM), Rockville, MD
This grant was funded by a gift from AMTA

Acute and chronic pain carry grave economic, operational, and personal consequences within the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Administration (VA). Both the DoD and VA populations have significantly higher prevalence of chronic pain compared to civilian populations. As a result, the opioid epidemic witnessed in the civilian population is mirrored in the DoD and VA populations. The study researches massage therapy’s promising evidence-based approach to reducing the burden of chronic pain within the DoD and VA.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this study has been extended through 2024.

Click here to read the press release.