An Oversight in Massage Research

What is “haptics” and why has it been ignored by massage research teams?

David Palmer recently wrote a blog post about a field of study called “haptics” that caught my attention.

The term “haptics,” refers to the sense of touch.” So, if you are studying touch, you are studying haptics. A great deal of current haptic research is technology related. For example, machine haptics looks at how robots sense physical objects. However, it is extremely relevant to massage.

Massage is all about touch, yet massage research has largely ignored the vast amount of study done by haptic researchers. Although a study of the vibrations in a gaming joy stick doesn’t immediately seem connected to a back massage, it couldn’t be more important.

A big issue with massage research is that we can’t quantify any variables to determine what exactly is creating the effects we see. I was commissioned to write a research-based textbook in the early 90’s and one of the frustrations I had was that the studies would simply be looking at factors like a “slow stroke back massage” or a “deep tissue masssage”. None of the research broke the massage down into some basic component parts that could be co-related to the effects they found. So the studies were not very useful in helping draw conclusions in terms of how massage needed to be applied to the body to maximize the benefits you wanted.

Haptic researchers are creating a vocabulary and it’s time we start tapping into those studies to enhance the quality of massage research that is currently being done.

You can read David Palmer’s insightful article here: Haptics: The Science of Touch

Please share with your massage friends.


Eric Brown of BodyworkBiz (an online massage business resource) also owns Thermal Palms, Relax to the Max, World Massage Conference and Massage Therapy Radio. Sign up for the free BodyworkBiz massage marketing newsletter at


You can now find me on Twitter @ericupsidebrown
Erik Dalton Techniques at Indiana State University | Eric Brown, BodyworkBiz Blog - 1 year ago
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