You’ve Got Mail

Custom Research Alerts Delivered to Your Inbox

By Diana L. Thompson
[Somatic Research]

It is impossible to catch up on all the published research on massage, regardless if you’re new to the task or not. But all of us can stay current on research as it is published, if we can make a habit of reading an article a day, or even an article a week.

Some of us already have expertise in searching for and reading research as it pertains to specific questions that arise, but we have yet to develop habits about reading research on a consistent basis. Or, research may have been in the back of your mind as you feel the push toward evidence-informed practices, yet you resisted it. Perhaps this issue of Massage & Bodywork, with a featured focus on research, has brought the subject to the forefront and made your desire for information gained from research more palpable and prominent. In any case, staying current on today’s research is easier than catching up on two decades of accelerated growth in massage research, and much more manageable than you think.

Today’s technology makes it possible to keep informed and access the research you care about from the convenience of your email inbox. You no longer need to master advanced search vocabulary (Medical Subject Headings terms and Boolean operators), nor do you have to set aside time, pick a topic, and search a database. Once you opt in to receive research alerts, all you need to do is scan your email and click on an article that interests you. Customize your alerts and ensure you are only getting information that matches your interests.

Now that you are ready to become a regular consumer of research, where do you begin? Where do you go to access articles that interest you? How do you decide what to read? Is it acceptable to read summaries of research instead of reading the original article itself? If so, whose translation do you trust?

Research News

If the thought of consuming full-text research articles is still daunting, find sources that summarize current research and opt in to receive news alerts. Choose the sources that are less likely to sensationalize the news, and opt in with those that have best evidence as their goal.

Massage & Bodywork

One resource for research summaries is right in front of you. Every issue of Massage & Bodywork publishes this column on somatic research, with topics ranging from research literacy to applying research to session planning. Rather than summarizing just one research project, as other magazines and news sources do, the Somatic Research column delves into the body of evidence for a particular population or condition, such as older adults, chronic pain, or diabetes, and provides you with expansive, balanced research data to assist you in making informed clinical decisions. The magazine is delivered bimonthly in both print and digital editions (ABMP provides an email alert when the digital version is available), and back issues are archived and available online at Whether you commit to one Somatic Research article a day or one a week, make it one of your regular reads.

Massage Therapy Foundation

The Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) is the premiere source for information on massage research. Since April 2011, the MTF has been partnering with Massage Today to publish a monthly research column. Each month, a research project synopsis, with reference to the original article, is posted on MTF experts—writers, researchers, and somatic therapists—interpret current, pertinent research studies as part of the foundation’s ongoing work to promote research literacy in the massage profession.

To receive the news alerts from, register for the massage therapy news updates. When the alert email arrives, if there is no link to the MTF research synopsis, click on “you may view the online version here” and look for “Massage Therapy Foundation Research Column” along the left-hand column. Click on the MTF logo to access the synopsis. Under the title of the current article is a link to archived research synopses. Scan the list for other articles of interest and put them in your reading queue.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

A must-have monthly news alert comes from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): NCCAM Clinical Digest. The enewsletter offers evidence-based information on CAM, including scientific literature searches, summaries of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more. Each enewsletter focuses on a topic, such as headaches, and summarizes research from different disciplines, such as massage and acupuncture. You can click on other summaries on the same topic or summaries published in other research journals, such as the Journal for Pediatric Medicine, for more detailed information. If you are ready to read full-text research articles, links to the original research are embedded, or you can click on the link to scientific literature and a search of CAM on PubMed is automatically conducted for you on the topic of the month.

To register, go to NCCAM’s home page at Under news, click on NCCAM Clinical Digest. Along the left-hand column of the enewsletter is a link to “Subscribe to NCCAM Clinical Digest.” You may also register to receive the NCCAM Update, which will keep you informed of new resources, upcoming events, funding announcements, job openings, and more.

Institute of Medicine

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) also has email alerts. IOM hosts meetings on medicine and research, and summaries of the meetings are available through the National Academies Press. While the printed volumes are costly (each about $40–$80), the summaries can be downloaded as an electronic document for free. Most recently, the alert regarding Promoting Health Literacy to Encourage Prevention and Wellness: Workshop Summary was delivered to my inbox. IOM’s Pain in America workshop report is another one I downloaded and reference often. This alert may not offer items that catch your interest very often, but when it does pertain to your massage practice, the information is comprehensive, thought provoking and timely. Go to to sign up for alerts on the meetings and reports.

MedScape and WebMD

Many of the daily or weekly summaries require a willingness to slog through lists of news articles that may not pertain to massage just to find a few gems. Opt in to receive weekly news alerts from MedScape and WebMD, and sign up at for daily news on health and medicine. The good news is you can customize the alerts from a long list of conditions and topics and reduce the immaterial articles.

Medscape, a division of WebMD, has daily health news, a Week in Review, and Best Evidence weekly, presenting original research articles and research summaries on a list of topics from allergy and critical care to rheumatology and urology. There were no articles on massage therapy in the most recent enewsletter, but there were several articles of peripheral interest: an excellent video on diabetes and the role of health-care providers in treating the chronic condition, not just the acute problem, and a demographic study on opiates and overdose (up 408 percent since 1993 in Caucasians, no increase in other ethnic groups). From the Medscape home page,, sign up by clicking on the “New Users: Free Registration” link. In addition to receiving newsletters, registration allows access to MedLine searches. Use massage as a search term and read hundreds of archived summaries and research articles on massage therapy.

For health newsletters designed for the public, go to the WebMD home page,, click on the “Home and News” link across the top and scroll down to “WebMD Newsletters” to register. I recommend signing up for the monthly digital magazine and “Complementary & Alternative Health” under the special newsletters, and selecting a couple from the condition specific list, such as arthritis and chronic pain/back pain. There is even a “DailyBite” nutritional newsletter that delivers a recipe every day complete with the nutritional breakdown per serving. These newsletters are great for sharing with your clients.


The Health and Medicine section at offers email alerts for their news and research summaries. Once you find a summary article of interest, you can easily search the archives for articles on similar topics. Look for the email tab under the Health & Medicine News to register. Again, it may be weeks before you get an article on massage, but when you do, it is worth the wait. These are the stories everyone will be talking about, stories published in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and on National Public Radio. You will never again be the last one to hear about massage in the headlines.

Research Articles

When the urge strikes you to go beyond the news and read the complete research article, there are several sources to consider. First, look for sources that will provide you with the full-text article for free. Otherwise, when opting in to subscription-based journal alerts, a few more steps are required to access the full-text article. Copy the citation and use it to search Google Scholar. If that doesn’t produce the article, and the research was conducted at, or the investigators are affiliated with, a university, search the university’s repository. If you have access to a university library and the school has a subscription to the journal, you will be able to find the article on the library’s computer and print a copy for a nominal fee. If you are still unable to find the full-text article for free and the abstract is compelling, you may choose to pay the subscription fee for a single article and download it. All of this begins with opting in for research-journal alerts.

The MTF publishes a quarterly, free, online research journal targeting massage therapy and bodywork research, education, and practice articles. To sign up for the quarterly journal alerts, go to and click on the “Register” link across the top of the page. Every article is of direct interest to massage and bodywork therapists, providing you with several articles to queue up for your regular reads.

NCCAM Clinical Digest

As mentioned earlier, NCCAM Clinical Digest is also an excellent source for original research, though the articles are limited to the topic of the month. Click on the links embedded in the news summaries, or click on the “Scientific Literature” link and search the PubMed database for articles on the topic of the month. The MeSH terms are preselected, streamlining the search to the specific topic.

BioMed Central

My personal favorite weekly source for just-published research is BioMed Central (BMC). I love it for two reasons: all of the articles include free, full-text links, and I get to customize the alert. Every week I receive an alert on my specified search topics: chiropractic and manual therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, health-services research, musculoskeletal disorders, and related articles from other journals. Included in the “related articles from other journals” alert are articles found in PubMed. This is the most complete alert for free, full-text articles.

The drawback to selecting search topics such as CAM or chiropractic and manual therapies is the vast array of alerts for articles on modalities or topics outside the scope of somatic therapists. The payoffs include the few articles that include massage and compare massage to the other CAM modalities. Again, you must be willing to slog through a list of unrelated articles to get to the few gems.

To register for BMC alerts, go and click on “Register.” You can pick from 222 journals by title, or you may select from a list of topics such as the ones above. Begin by opting in for only one or two topic alerts, or you may feel overwhelmed by the clutter in your inbox.

Other Journals of Interest

Here is a list of a few journals worth watching but that require a fee to download full-text articles. To receive table-of-contents alerts, go to these websites:

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (

InspireHealth Integrated Cancer Care (

Natural Medicine Journal (www.naturalmedicine

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (


Keep up-to-date with the massage and bodywork research as it is published. You can read an article a day, or an article a week. If you fall off the wagon, just start again. It takes 21 days to develop a daily habit (66 days to change the neurons and make it stick)1 and this is a habit worth your time and effort.


1. PsychCentral, “How Long Does it Take an Action to Become a Habit; 21, 28, or 66 Days?” accessed February 2012,

A licensed massage practitioner since 1984, Diana L. Thompson has created a varied and interesting career out of massage: from specializing in pre- and postsurgical lymph drainage to teaching, writing, consulting, and volunteering. Her consulting includes assisting insurance carriers on integrating massage into insurance plans and educating researchers on massage therapy theory and practice to ensure research projects and protocols are designed to match how we practice. Contact her at