Laboratory meets massage table

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A COCC instructor is studying the effects of massage therapy on the elderly

 

Can massage therapy improve elders’ activities and daily living?

This was the question Amber Clark, massage therapy instructor at Central Oregon Community College proposed when she changed the program’s curriculum at the beginning of the year and took her advance therapy class out of the classroom and into the facilities of Aspen Ridge Retirement Community.

“My goal is to do community outreach with the students, so engaging the student outside of the classroom, and into the community,” Clark said. “But also building it into the idea of an ‘evidence informed practice.’”

With the assistance of a grant received in February from the Massage Therapy Foundation, Clark has acquired the funding necessary to launch what she calls a “pilot research study” to research the positive effects of massage therapy on the elderly.

“With the grant the was given to the program, we now have enough to implement the money and the research and the data to then compile it,” Clark said. “The grant also added some additional funds to be able to put together the research and the time outside the classroom.”

In the study, eight massage therapy students have been partnered with eight Aspen Ridge residents to receive weekly massages and, over the course of the term, prove that massage therapy can improve the seniors’ quality of life. Clark and students involved in the project seek to prove with their research the links between massage therapy and the improvement to a senior’s health.

They also seek to show the benefits of therapeutic massage and hopefully have insurance companies add it to the seniors’ health care plans or even Medicare.

“This is the first time we’ve run the class, so the idea is to get students interested in the concepts of research in the massage profession,” Clark said. “By showing the benefits of the therapy, then perhaps Medicare would want to implement it into insurance and it would be covered for seniors who have health care.”

Aspen Ridge’s retirement community have been “welcoming” in assisting the students with the trial, according to Bryan Carnahan, executive director of Aspen Ridge. Carnahan and staff have been receiving positive feedback from the residents.

“All the residents who are participating have nothing but praises,” Carnahan said. “We even got feedback from residents who aren’t on [the trial] saying they wish they were.”

Clark hopes that with the program and research getting attention, student attention will spike and the massage research therapy idea will spread to other schools.

“My goal as the instructor is to succeed in the pilot study and encourage potentially other colleges around the nation to do the same,” Clark said.

If the trial could be done over again, both Clark and Carnahan wouldn’t change much of it.  But Carnahan would want to bring more residents into the trial in the future.

“The only form of complain that we’ve had has been the fact that more residents want to be part of the trial,” Carnahan said.

Clark and the rest of the massage students are halfway done with the trial project, and more students’ involvement is required to take the research into phase two. As of now, the advance massage therapy class is only offered in the spring term, but with more student involvement Clark is confident the class will expand to accommodate more students in the future.

Brayan Gonzalez | The Broadside

(Contact: bgonzalez@cocc.edu)

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