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Massage as an important Treatment for Back Pain – A survey on its efficacy

Back pain is one of the most common complaints of working individuals and those who work who do active work such as carrying or pulling heavy items or equipment. As such, it is important to ensure that all modality and treatment methods applied for back pain will ensure success and increased efficacy. According to a study by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in partnership with health organizations and universities in the US, significant improvements were documented after implementing massage therapy to participants.

The study was conducted to 400 Group Health participants in whom they are divided into three groups to analyze the best treatment for pain of the back. The groups were divided into the structural massage group, relaxation massage and standard medical care for back pain. According to results, short term benefits and improved physical condition were visible with both massage types as compared to standard medical attention which include therapy, medication and back exercises. As a treatment for back pain, massage therapy is indeed recognized as a helpful solution, reducing the need to take pain medication as frequently compared to those who did not undergo massage. Therapy, however, only offers short term results within a period of 6 months, in which a year of recovery has been inconclusive.


massage as a back pain treatment

massage as a back pain treatment


The efficacy of massage as a treatment for back pain cannot be fully determined due to the inconclusive results that it does to the physical aspect of the body. According to an article by NCCAM, aside from physical factors, therapists and other medical professionals should also consider the psychological and social aspects. The Journal of Family Practice published a comprehensive article taking into account a couple of cases comparing acute and chronic back pain. The case of a patient with acute back pain are not immediately required to undergo massage as a treatment for back pain but is required to stay active and use conventional medical treatments and methods like exercises, pain killers and physical therapy to manage back pain. If such pain persists after 4 weeks, then other nondrug therapy such as massage can be implemented to improve pain management.

On the contrary, those who experience chronic lower back pain can benefit greatly from non-drug treatments as part of the primary care for their LBP. However, the study has also indicated that those with chronic LBP will not be pain free and should have a more realistic perspective of the situation. Massage therapy after all, is beneficial for short term pain management.

Nonspecific effects

Going back to the study of back pain and massage, results are also deemed nonspecific, meaning that massage, be it structural or relaxation may be able to stimulate a person’s perception on healing. Massage is unique as a form of therapy since it includes physical interaction such as the use of hands and being touched, and the perception of being in a calming and invigorating environment. There is also a perception about the therapist who may seem caring. Also, the added benefits such as advice on how to reduce pain. In most cases, the benefits of massage could be interplay between specific and nonspecific factors. Nonetheless, the results offer a perspective on healing and recovery.

Massage therapy- better efficacy

Though the results of massage in general are not conclusive for long term healing, it is not to be considered as ineffective. In fact, according to a published report by Cochrane Collaboration, massage offers better healing response against other non-drug methods. Based on several studies and trials, massage was deemed better compared to sham laser (placebo), acupuncture, relaxation and education. Massage was also considered vaguely equal to wearing supports or corsets while spinal manipulation was deemed more effective than massage. The study itself was implemented on a small population but the results are deemed significant in further analyzing the efficacy of the said modality as treatment for back pain and how it could benefit patients in specific and nonspecific aspects.

Pain and massage

The feeling of pain has always been the most significant complaint of patients who have acute or chronic back pain. According to a study by Moyer and Colleagues, massage has significantly reduced levels of pain after participating in a course of massage therapies. Though the study itself warrants further analysis especially with other forms of back pain and muscle pain as well as the use of medication, it should be noted that massage as a therapeutic modality has a positive effect on those who want to alleviate pain. At the moment, while numerous broad ranging studies have been published, there are still areas to be covered such as efficacy of specific massage methods. Nevertheless, we can all agree that when it comes to back pain, massage is definitely a potent option for pain reduction and increased healing.


Massage Therapy Holds Promise for Low-Back Pain – National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Managing Low-Back Pain: An Evidence-Based Approach for Primary Care Physicians – National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Massage Eases Low Back Pain in Randomized Controlled Trial – Science Daily

Study: Massage Helps Treat Low Back Pain – Researchers Say Massage Provides Pain Relief and Improves Daily Functioning – WebMD

Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Chronic, Non-malignant Pain: A Review – National Center for Biotechnology Information

The Effectiveness of Massage Therapy – A Summary of Evidence-Based Research – Australian Association of Massage Therapists

A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW. Psychol Bull. 2004 Jan; 130(1):3-18.

Furlan AD, Brosseau L, Imamura M, Irvin E. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002. Massage for low back pain. CD001929.


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