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Massage eases low back pain in randomized controlled trial
Date:7/4/2011

declined over time," Dr. Cherkin said. "But at six months after the trial started, both types of massage were still associated with improved function." After one year, the benefits of massage were no longer significant.

The bottom line: "We found the benefits of massage are about as strong as those reported for other effective treatments: medications, acupuncture, exercise, and yoga," Dr. Cherkin said. "And massage is at least as safe as other treatment options. So people who have persistent back pain may want to consider massage as an option."

Prior studies of massage for back pain had tested only structural forms of massage, not relaxation massage. But relaxation (also called Swedish) massage is the most widely available and is taught in massage schools. It aims to promote a feeling of relaxation throughout the body. By contrast, structural massage involves identifying and focusing on specific pain-related "soft tissues" (like muscles and ligaments). It requires extra training and may be more expensivebut more likely to be covered by health insurance plansthan relaxation massage.

"The massage therapists assumed structural massage would prove more effective than relaxation massage," said Dr. Cherkin's colleague Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute. "They were surprised when patients in the relaxation group got so much relief from their back pain."

Next steps include figuring out whether the structural and relaxation massages were equally effective for the sameor for differentreasons:

  • Structural or relaxation massage, or both, might have specific effects, such as stimulating tissue or calming the central nervous system.

  • Either or both might work through "nonspecific effects" that may promote a person's ability to play an active role in their own healing. Possible nonspecific effects include: being touched; spending time in a relaxing environment;
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Contact: Rebecca Hughes
hughes.r@ghc.org
206-287-2055
Group Health Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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