Research Confirms Massage Reduces Lower Back Pain
A review of the study ‘A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial’ published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Non-specific lower back pain is one of the most common muscular-skeletal issues reported by patients/clients seeking pain relief. Massage therapy is recognised in clinical practice as an effective treatment for this condition.
A controlled trial was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr Daniel C. Cherkin and his colleagues at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, compared massage plus usual care to usual care alone in their study of participants, ages 20 to 65 years old (n=401). Study findings, ‘suggest that both relaxation massage and structural massage are reasonable treatment options for persons with chronic low back pain.’ Participants in the study received 10 weekly treatments at no cost, which consisted of either relaxation massage or structural massage, randomly assigned. Twenty-seven licensed massage practitioners (LMPs), all of whom had a minimum of five years’ experience, received 1.5 days of protocol training and provided massage treatments. The LMPs knew which type of massage they were performing, which they did not disclose with participants. Additionally, participants were provided kinaesthetic exercises to do in the home setting to help relieve their back pain between treatments.
Study findings indicate that “massage therapy improved function and decreased pain more than usual care in patients with uncomplicated chronic lower back pain (LBP) after 10 weeks.” The participants who received massage in addition to usual care reported significantly lower Roland Disability Quotient scores (p=<0.001) and symptom ‘bothersomeness’ scores (p=<0.001). The beneficial effects of massage lasted at twenty-six weeks (p=0.007) and fifty-two weeks (p=0.049) when measured by the Roland Disability Quotient. Symptom bothersomeness was only significantly reduced at the end of the ten-week trial. The authors note that “massage recipients were more likely than participants in the usual care group to experience clinically meaningful reductions” in functional limitations and low back pain symptoms.
Massage reduced self-reported medication use for LBP (p=0.006), including specifically NSAID use for LBP (p=0.027) at the end of the ten-week trial. Similarly, massage patients were able to decrease absenteeism to work or school caused by their LBP (p=0.018) at the ten-week mark. Patients in the massage group were significantly more likely to be “pleased or delighted if LBP remained at the current level for the rest of life” at the end of the ten-week trial (p=0.007) than patients receiving usual care. In addition, massage patients were significantly more likely (p<0.001) to be “very satisfied with [their] LBP care” at ten weeks, twenty-six weeks and fifty-two weeks.
The researchers report that at this point, there’s little evidence of which mechanisms explain the beneficial effects of massage. What can be clearly stated is that this research provides evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of remedial massage Brisbane for managing chronic low back pain.
Graphs of Participants with Improvement (by treatment group and time since randomisation)
(A) Percentage of participants improving by at least 3 points on the Roland Disability Questionnaire scale
(B) Percentage of participants improving by at least 2 points on the symptom bothersomeness scale
Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, Wellman R, Cook A J, Johnson E, Erro J, Delaney K, Deyo RA. A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155:1:1-9,