There has been substantial progress with the Institute’s Research Agenda and indeed in the research prospects of all Alternative Health Care modalities due to the federal government’s research initiative.
Progress on the Institute’s Plan
As you may recall, we have been following a plan for research on Rolfing that was put together for us in early 1991 by Steve Porges, Ph. D., a professor in the Department of Human Development of the University of Maryland. His time to do this was donated to us.
We designed a program which would:
1. Determine who is being Rolfed
2. Determine perceived benefits, and if any, adverse reactions and contra-indications
3. Provide information to Rolfers that will be helpful in recruiting clients
4. Generate research funds to conduct
a. research on mechanisms
b. clinical trials
5. Provide information to Rolfers to enhance their skills.
The project started in the summer of 1991 when we asked Rolfers to give us some general information about their clients. Summarized results were published in the Summer 1992 issue of Rolf Lines (Vol. XX No. 3 pgs. 43-44). We are now ready for the second phase in which we will directly assess client’s responses to Rolfing.
Our plan to collect data from about 1,000 clients, a data base large enough to be unquestionably dependable and that we can then use as a basis for soliciting funds for further research. This data will also be useful in the promotion of Rolfing and for guiding the direction of future research.
The instrument for this study is comprised of several questionnaires. There is the Body Perception Questionnaire to study changes in body awareness and stress response. There is also a Demographics and Health Behavior Survey and a Rolfing Reasons and Expectations Questionnaire. Some of these questionnaires are to be filled out before the initial 10-series. Then six weeks after the 10-series the client will be asked to fill in the Body Perception Questionnaire again as well as a Post-Rolfing Evaluation. Some of the information we want regarding the effects of Rolfing will be provided by comparing the before and after responses to the Body Perception Questionnaire.
We will start this project with a pilot study whereby we will use this test instrument on a few clients at first, and then evaluate the data to see if the questionnaires can be improved, e.g., shortened and yet get the same “bottom line” information. For this pilot phase we want to get questionnaires filled out by about 100 clients. We estimate it will take about 40 minutes to complete the questionnaires. This sounds like a burden to place on a client but one reviewer of our questionnaires pointed out that though this sounds like a lot to ask of clients as a contribution to our research, it will be a pleasurable and interesting experience to many people because it encourages them to introspect. So far, I have gotten the agreement of 19 Rolfers to help me with this; some responded to a plea I made at the Eastern Regional Meeting, some to a plea I made at the Faculty Meeting, and still others responded to my request for help in the Letters section of the March 1993 Rolf Lines (Vol. XXI No. 1 pgs. 31-32). More help would be most welcome. It would be good to get a broader geographical base of clients and most importantly more participation by Rolfers would lighten the load of each Rolfer participating in this phase. When we have evaluated our test instrument with the response of these first 100 clients, we will, if necessary, modify the questionnaire and then seek the help of our entire membership to get 1,000 clients to participate. When you consider that about 70,000 people elect to get the Rolfing 10-series per year, you can see that it is reasonable to expect to get 1,000 clients to participate. Please call me, (301) 718-6120, if you will help with the pilot phase of this project.
Possible Government Support
Last June, the Federal government, through the National Institute of Health (NIH), began examining the prospects of research in “alternative medical practices”. The NIH, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is the center of biomedical research in the United States. It conducts research at their campus and they fund the conduct of research to be done elsewhere. Their annual budget is in excess of $10 billion dollars.
Government support of research in alternative medical practices was virtually unheard of prior to this initiative, but now congress has mandated a program of research in this field. In June and again in the fall of 1992, NIH called together a number of people who had indicated interest in this program, and sought advice as to how to design such a research program. I attended these meetings and reported on them in Rolf Lines (Vol. XX No. 3 pgs. 25-26 and Vol. XX No. 4 pgs. 59-60). After the September 1992 meeting, several small groups were formed by NIH to complete the work of these larger meetings and to document the position of the alternative health care community regarding the focuses decided upon at that September meeting. I was a member of one of these smaller groups, the Ad Hoc Panel on Structural and Energetic Therapies, and co-authored a February 1993 report called Structural and Energetic Therapies: A Report to the NIH Office of Alternative Medical Practice. There was one report from each of the panels: Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Changes; Mind/Body Control; Traditional and Ethno-medicine; Structural Manipulations and Energetic Therapies; Pharmacological and Biological Treatments; Bio electromagnetic Applications. Please see Rolf Lines Vol. XX No. 4 for more detail on these panels. The 36-page report that I co-authored, characterizes the Structural and Energetic Therapies as a group, and describes most well known therapies in this category including: Rolfing, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, several kinds of massage, movement oriented therapies (e.g., Trager, Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Techniques), Accu pressure, and the energetic therapies represented by Healing Science, Healing Touch, Huna, Natural Healing, Polarity Therapy, Qigong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch. This report briefly describes these therapies and the research done in them and it outlines what research is appropriate in the near future. The report is not comprehensive; it was meant rather to give NIH and congress an overview of the field, and to recommend a program of research.
In March, NIH issued a request for applications for small scale studies in alternative medicine. These applications will compete for funds, and from them NIH hopes to identify up to 20 “worthy” projects and fund each for up to $30,000 for one year. The proposals are due June 8. The NIH is specifically hoping to build collaborations between the alternative health practitioners and the established scientific research community. Therefore, Steve Porges and I believe that our best chance to win one of these grants is with a collaborative study whereby the University of Maryland would provide the principal investigator (Porges) and most support such as statistical analysis etc., on a study of Rolfing, and the Institute would be a collaborator. We decided to apply for support of an accelerated and expanded version of the study that we planned to do anyway, the study based on the questionnaire discussed above to be filled out by your clients before and after the 10-series. We chose this project because it allows us to proceed in an orderly way with our existing long range research plans and it provides a study of manageable size. We believe that this approach will be attractive to a funding agency in that it will provide an evaluation of Rolfing as well as an evaluation of a specific method (the questionnaires) to assess any body therapy.
Like all opportunities, this opportunity of federal funding for research poses some risks. In particular, if we are awarded federal money for this (or any) project, we really have to produce. The Institute will have to get itself organized and energized to create and support a research project, not just talk about research, and bemoan the paucity of research on Rolling, and exclaim how much we believe in it. In this case, Rolfers must make the significant effort to solicit the cooperation of their clients and get them to fill in the questionnaires and send them promptly for analysis. We must also identify a control group and solicit their cooperation. If we don’t each do our part, it will, at the very least, be embarrassing but importantly, it will be a major setback for Rolfing a missed opportunity for scientific verification and the public acceptance that goes with that. It will also be a setback for the whole alternative health community because it will be fodder for those who are poised to malign alternative health care and its practitioners. They may use our failure to conduct research that others have funded as justification of the claim that we are irresponsible.
So, when all is said and done, it is extremely important that we all get firmly behind this research project. Whether we get federal funds or not, we cannot proceed further without your active participation. Whether we can goat the accelerated pace which would be facilitated by winning federal funds, or at a slower pace using our own funds, we must have enough support within our organization to collect the data. Please help us when the time comes, by convincing a few of your clients to take the time to fill in the questionnaires and return them for us to use in this research program. I will keep you posted of our progress.