Chronic Low-Back Pain Eased by Massage
Massage Is an Effective Treatment for Chronic
Massage is an
effective treatment for chronic low back pain,
according to a research study conducted by the
Center for Health Studies in Seattle, Washington. In
a comparison of massage, acupuncture and self-care,
a 10-week program of massage therapy was found to be
most effective of the three.
The study, "A
Randomized Trial Comparing Acupuncture, Therapeutic
Massage and Self-Care Education for Chronic Low Back
Pain," was completed in late 2000.
the effects of acupuncture, massage and self-care
education on 262 adults, aged 20 to 70. Participants
in the massage group and the acupuncture group could
have up to 10 sessions during the 10-week study
Those in the
acupuncture group received acupuncture, electrical
stimulation, heat, cupping, herbs and exercise
Those in the
massage-therapy group received a treatment protocol
of therapies including Swedish and deep-tissue
massage, trigger-point therapy, neuromuscular
therapy and movement education.
participants were given two videos and a book with
information about back pain, techniques to control
and prevent pain, and suggestions for dealing with
emotional problems that can accompany chronic pain.
post-treatment assessments included: a Roland
Disability Scale (a questionnaire that measures
ability to function); SF-12 physical and mental
health summary scales; exercise and worry level
assessments; and estimates on care costs.
Assessments were taken at intervals of four, 10 and
Massage was found to
be the most helpful therapy at the end of the
10-week treatment period, in all assessment
criteria. Acupuncture ranked higher than self-care
only in higher satisfaction with care and less use
of pain medication at the end of 10 weeks.
After one year, those
who had participated in the massage group still
reported the greatest benefit from the 10-week
treatment period, as compared to those who were in
the acupuncture or self-care groups. Researchers
also said there were noted improvements at the end
of one year in the self-care group, in the areas of
symptom, function and decreased worry about back
"This study suggests
that massage has benefits that become apparent
within 10 weeks and persist at least one year," the
researchers wrote. As well, those in the massage
group had 40 percent fewer back-pain-related visits
to a physician and 40 percent fewer medication
refills than those in the other two groups.
"The finding that the
benefits of massage persist well beyond the last
treatment, and the suggestion of possible reductions
in subsequent health care utilization, make massage
a high priority for further study," the authors
Health Cooperative of Puget Sound Center for Health
Studies, Seattle, Washington. Authors: Daniel C.
Cherkin, Ph.D.; David Eisenberg, M.D.; Karen J.
Sherman, Ph.D.; William Barlow, Ph.D.; Ted J.
Kaptchuk, O.M.D.; Janet Street, R.N., Richard A.
Deyo, M.D. Originally published in Archives of
Internal Medicine, April 23, 2001, Vol. 161, No.8.