Evidence based practice requires healthcare providers to include research inquiry and evidence into their clinical work. The research is proving to be exciting but tends to be overblown and overstated in the press. As the profession moves towards an evidence based approach it is important that therapists distinguish between stronger and weaker levels of evidence and interpret them correctly.
Anecdotal evidence and personal experience cannot and should not be ignored, the views of the patient will always be important. Patient feedback needs to be carefully considered and integrated into any treatment plan in order to optomise the outcome.
Case studies are a more formal presentation of clinical evidence. This is particularly useful when part of a case series, where a number of case reports that share similar presentations and treatments are compared and written up together.
Randomised Control Trials (RCT) are a relatively new source of evidence in massage therapy and are normally carried out under controlled ‘laboratory’ conditions. Randomised Control Trials require great care and experience when interpreting the results. Because of the scientific analysis involved they are generally regarded as a higher quality form of evidence. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I disagree with this but in my view a single RCT, taken in isolation, has no more value than a case series and is in far greater danger of being overblown and misinterpreted.
The gold standard of research evidence are narrative reviews and systematic reviews. This is where collections of different research studies are compared and statistically analysed.