Massage Student wins Bronze Award

Massage Student wins Bronze Award

A rare disorder and an innovate but unstudied method: for most students, these circumstances present an overwhelming challenge. For Nicole Riou, it was an opportunity to excel. Nicole, a recent graduate of the Massage Therapy diploma program at MacEwan University, was awarded bronze in the Massage Therapy Foundation 2012 Student Case Report Contest for her report detailing the treatment of a condition called Essential Tremor using massage.

Nicole is thrilled to win, especially considering her strong competition. “Bronze is pretty awesome,” she says, “It’s an international case report. I don’t know how many reports were submitted, but if it’s international I can only imagine.”

The contest was presented to Nicole in a clinical studies course in her last year at MacEwan University. As a final project, students work with a patient and complete a research report. Nicole’s report was chosen by her instructors and submitted to the competition.


The condition Nicole’s client suffers from causes bothersome tremors, in this case in the hands and head. Nicole’s interest was piqued right away: “I have personal ties to the condition. It’s in my family. I found very little research on it, so it was something could be looked into further.”

For most, a lack of existing solutions and research would seem an insurmountable barrier. For Nicole, it was an opportunity to try something new for a client with few treatment options. Massage therapy had a relatively uncharted potential to alleviate her client’s tremors

The condition is exacerbated by stress: Nicole decided to treat it with relaxation-based techniques such as Swedish massage, myofascial release and hydrotherapy.

Faced with very little research precedent, Nicole decided on an innovative research method; she quantified the progress of her client through dynamic movements. “Things that have intention are affected by the tremor,” She explains, “I used an action-based chart. Pre- and post-treatment we did things like touch your nose with your finger, pour a cup of water, and I had her draw an Archimedes spiral using her right hand and her left hand before and after treatment”

The spirals, included in the report, are often askew before treatment, and much more accurate after treatment. They are an especially powerful indicator of the progress in the client’s symptoms. This inventive and effective research method won significant praise for Nicole’s project, and set a precedent for research into treating such tremors with massage. “There is room for people to reproduce what I’ve done, to validate my results,” says Nicole. “There’s a lot of potential.”

A single mother and mature student, Nicole graduated this summer from MacEwan University, and will begin her employment at the Salutaris Centre in August 2012 – an opportunity she discovered on the job bulletin board at the MacEwan University Massage Therapy office. Her award includes a cash prize, publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and a poster presentation at the 2012 American Massage Therapy Association National Convention in Raleigh, North Carolina from October 3-6, 2012.

Learn more about the Massage Therapy diploma at Macewan University.

Before and after spirals drawn with the client’s left hand