During and after last month’s San Diego Pain Summit, my brain was overloaded with information that changed some of my own beliefs and perceptions about pain, not including many familiar faces and “celebrities” whom I had encountered, including Dr. Robert Sapolsky, Todd Hargrove, and Dr. Bronnie Thompson. Some people weren’t able to make it to the Summit, and some — like myself — could not get enough of it. For the latter, the 2016 Manual Therapy Conference (MTC) in Vancouver is one such event that they could satiate the hunger for more knowledge.

Similar to the SDPS, MTC primary focus is on bridging the gap between science and research with practice and patient care.

“The Registered Massage Therapy Association of British Colombia (RMTBC) has mandate to advance knowledge and understanding of massage therapy. It is through research and evidence informed practice that the profession and practice of massage therapy is advanced, enhancing the profession’s and the public’s understanding of massage therapy and its therapeutic value,” Bodhi Haraldsson described in an online interview with Massage & Fitness Magazine, who is the director of research of RMTBC and co-organization of the upcoming conference. “With this in mind the association has previously run three research conferences. MTC 2016 is our fourth.”

Dr. Eyal Lederman as the first keynote speaker on April 16th.

Well, in that case, there couldn’t be a better keynote speaker to kick on this year’s MTC than Dr. Eyal Lederman, who is practicing as an osteopath in London and had completed his PhD in physiotherapy at King’s College, where he researched the neurophysiology of manual therapy.

Dr. Lederman is well-known for his published paper, “The fall of the postural–structural–biomechanical model in manual and physical therapies: Exemplified by lower back pain,”  that challenged the existing idea that pain primarily stems from structural problems, such as “poor posture” and spinal “misalignment.”

He argues in favor of the Process Approach instead of the Structural Approach, whereas the former “aims to identify the dominant processes which underpin the individual’s recovery. Once identified, environments that support these innate recovery processes are explored with the patient. These environments contain physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioural and social dimensions. They include: hands-on support, exploring movement that would be beneficial for recovery psychological support, working with cognitions, raising awareness to avoidance and recovery behaviour as well as exploring social and physical environments that assist recuperation.”

​In other words, the Process Approach’s aim is to provide support for patients’ recovery rather than implementing a modality to “fix” the problem by influencing biomechanics or a piece of anatomy (e.g. fascia, joints, muscles).

“A Process Approach is informed by and developed from biopsychosocial sciences and evidence based -medicine,” Lederman wrote. ​

When asked why Dr. Lederman was chosen to be one of the keynote speaker, Haraldsson replied, “I have been watching and reading Dr. Lederman’s work over the last 15 years. He has been on the forefront of shifting manual therapy towards current science.

​“His work, two books, and many articles have generated many discussions and debates in the manual therapy community. To date, I have not seen him lecturing or teaching in North America. With this in mind, I was very keen on hearing him speak and discuss what lies a head for manual therapists and science.”

Dr. Sandy Hilton

The four-day event covers various topics relating to physiotherapy, massage therapy, pain science, and professional development and communication, which includes several workshops on the 18th by Dr. Sandy Hilton, Dr. Ravensara Travillian, and Walt Fritz.

“The goal of the conference is to elevate the scientific knowledge of the profession has around manual therapy,” Haraldsson said. “The therapeutic encounter has many components to it. We are hoping to give our attendees good variety of ideas and thoughts around evidence informed manual therapy.”

Dr. Sandy Hilton, who is a physical therapist at Entropy Physiotherapy & Wellness in Chicago, Illinois, will focus on the biopsychosocial approach for pelvic pain and its nerves. Therapists will learn how to treat to reduce and increase patients’ self-efficacy.

“It is estimated that over 50 percent of women have experienced pelvic pain (lower abdominal, perineal, genital, sexual or with voiding). Many are not properly cared for for years, meaning they end up with chronic pain,” Hilton told M&F Magazine.

“It would be amazing to have more therapists understand about the prevalence, signs, and treatments to address and decrease pelvic pain so that we as a whole can reduce the amount of people suffering with chronic pelvic pain!

“And it’s not just women — men get pelvic pain too and can also be helped. The class I will be teaching on Monday after the conference will be all external techniques and functional movement that can be adapted for all clinicians.”

Dr. Ravensara Travillian

In one of these workshops, Dr. Travillian will teach about working with trauma victims, such as those with post-traumatic stress disorder and domestic abuse.

“Many of our clients have been exposed to — and are living with the effects —of trauma, and we’re the only ones whom they feel safe and trust enough to open up to about that trauma,” Travillian explained. “We need to be ready to stand with them on their journey. This workshop gives you information and tools on how to do that.”

Walt Fritz, PT

Physical therapy Walt Fritz will also be teaching a myofascial release course but with roots grounded in science. “The goal of the workshop and lecture are show that there is a space in modern manual therapy for myofascial release when it is explained from plausible perspectives,” Fritz told M&F Magazine. “Transitioning to a science-informed perspective need not be difficult; you just need to be able to let go of nearly everything you held dear!”

Dr. Christopher Moyer

The MTC also has break-out sessions, sort of like mini-presentations that explore other issues in manual therapy and patient care.

Psychologist and massage therapy researcher Dr. Christopher Moyer is one of those presenters. “Modern psychology has tremendous relevance to manual therapy and related practices, yet few therapists have had classes or training that exposes them to modern psychology. Instead, the psychology they are familiar with, most often, is historical psychology,” Moyer explained.

“Many manual therapists and massage therapists will have some basic knowledge of Freud, Jung, and even Reich, and those were interesting people with thought-provoking ideas. But their ideas are also a hundred years old and not grounded in evidence.

“Meanwhile, modern psychology has made tremendous advances in refining our understanding of how people experience the world and how they relate to each other. The advances being made in affective (emotion) science, pain science, evidence-based treatments for psychological disorders, health psychology, and many other sub-fields of modern psychology have great potential to inform manual therapies and to help those professions progress.”

What is interesting about MTC is that it has been around for quite some time. “A little known fact is that RMTBC held the first ever massage therapy research conference back in 1999,” added Haraldsson. “In 1997, our members voted in a special levy for research activities. It was this commitment  to research that members portrait that has driven the various research activities with in RMTBC. Our research conferences are one part of this strategy.”

Massage & Fitness Magazine will be covering some of the event via Facebook and Twitter live. We hope that you can join us in this spectacular event.