Anderton's email addressed that the CEU course is outside of a RMT's scope of practice and lack evidence to support its claims about massage therapy's ability to loosen scar tissues in the abdominal cavity or does anything for infertility.
Anderton wrote (full email):
I am writing this in response to a course offered on Sutherland-Chan’s most recent Continuing Education Unit schedule (A Manual Approach to Infertility and Other Gynecological Dysfunctions). I am aware that it has been offered for some time now, but I have only recently come across it through social media.
As a Registered Massage Therapist, a Sutherland-Chan Alumni, and an individual who has witnessed the emotional and financial toll infertility can have, I am very disappointed to see Sutherland-Chan endorse a course that not only encourages RMTs to work outside of their scope of practice, but has no evidence to back up its extraordinary claim of aiding with infertility.
Sutherland-Chan is a self-proclaimed leader in Massage Therapy education. As such I find it hard to believe that they do not have some form of criteria that their CEU courses must meet. It has also come to my attention that this course has been approved in the past for CEU and I will be following up with the CMTO accordingly.
There is currently no evidence to support the claim that massage therapy can be used to “loosen up scar tissue in the abdominal cavity”. Furthermore, adhesions or scars within the abdominal cavity are quite difficult to diagnose (for those Health Care Professionals with the capabilities to do so) as they do not appear on ultrasounds or x-rays. If scar tissue is determined to be the cause of someone’s infertility a laparoscopic surgery is needed and the adhesions are removed with the use of a laser.
Considering the skill and tools required to properly diagnose and remove the scar tissue or adhesions, it is unlikely that an RMT would be able to locate (through layers of muscle and viscera) and distinguish them from other soft tissues with any certainty. If an RMT had the ability to affect the change on scar tissue that this course is implying, what would stop them from damaging healthy tissue during a treatment?
I am well aware that research is lacking in our field but that does not give Registered Massage Therapists the right to ignore what we do know about the human body and fill in the blanks as they see fit.
Dealing with infertility can be an extremely stressful time (emotionally, physically, and financially). Not to mention, those desperately trying to conceive will spend a small fortune and try just about anything that is marketed as being helpful. I am embarrassed to see RMTs jumping at the opportunity to treat conditions outside of their scope of practice.
Personally, I feel we have no place treating infertility beyond helping someone relax during an extremely stressful time. Implying there is a cause and effect relationship between massage and infertility is especially irresponsible due to the lack of evidence.
By endorsing this course, Sutherland-Chan has given its seal of approval (whether intended or not), and as a leader in Massage Therapy education who can blame RMTs for assuming that they would be able to treat infertility and other gynecological dysfunctions by taking it.
Meaghan Anderton, RMT, B.Sc.
Working on the abdominal viscera and fascial networks is not in and of itself out of the scope of practice for a massage therapist nor is it ineffective. There is some indication that direct and indirect myofascial release and a focus on increasing perfusion are beneficial. We do concede, however, that there is not enough evidence to support the claim regarding infertility.
We admit that the naming of the course "A Manual Approach to Infertility and Other Gynecological Dysfunctions" was unfortunate. In retrospect, we regret this decision and will be changing the name and asking the instructor to alter the content of the course to avoid making claims that relate the techniques being taught to treating fertility.
We appreciate your efforts to keep everyone in the massage therapy field on their toes.
“I made an error by not carefully reviewing the course title and description when we first decided to include this course in our continuing education program,” Chan said. “I’m grateful that Meaghan noticed it now. She was right to point it out to me and I appreciate being made aware of it. From this experience, I learned that I need to review courses more carefully in the future keeping in mind the course title, scope of practice, and appropriateness of techniques.”
Students and alumni should not hesitate to contact their school if they notice or suspect a course offered that may be outside of a massage therapist's scope of practice, has less plausibility, or has a lack of quality evidence. This helps to maintain massage therapy's professionalism and avoid legal issues due to stepping over professional boundaries.
“I was pleased with the way Sutherland-Chan handled the situation,” Anderton commented to Massage & Fitness. “They were extremely quick to address my concerns and very open regarding the reason for changing the course title and description.”