Massage More Effective Than Usual Care for Treating Chronic Low Back Pain


Massage therapy may be more effective in dealing with low-back pain than other more traditional medical intervention as new research suggests.

The study comprised 401 patients aged 20 to 65 years old with nonspecific chronic low-back pain and compared the effectiveness of either relaxation or structural massage versus usual care, including medication and physical therapy. Participants were asked about their abilities to perform daily activities and then randomly assigned to receive one to three treatments.

One group received full-body relaxation massage, often called Swedish massage, and another received focused deep tissue massage, where specific pain-related tissues, ligaments and joints are targeted. The third group received therapies including pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants or physical therapy. Those receiving massage were given a one-hour massage once a week for 10 weeks.

The Results

After 10 weeks, the researchers again surveyed the participants about their symptoms and mobility, and again at six months and one year. The two groups of patients receiving massage therapy reported their back pain was significantly improved or gone altogether.

Although previous studies on massage therapy and low-back pain have concentrated primarily on effectiveness of deep tissue massage, researchers are hopeful about the success of relaxation massage modalities offering significant benefits. Two reasons are that relaxation massage is oftentimes more widely available and cost-effective.

Source: This article was excerpted from Massage Therapy Journal®  Fall 2011.