Chronic back pain can cause you to miss out on life. Maybe you’ve missed work a few times. You choose weekends on the couch instead of a weekend out doing fun stuff. If it hurts badly enough you might even go to the doctor (repeatedly). Pain in the lower back is one of the top reasons people go to the doctor. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in July 2011 found that massage therapy was better than “usual care” at relieving lower back pain. Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, the study’s lead author was Daniel Cherkin, Director of Group Health Research Institute. Could massage therapy help relieve your lower back pain?
The study consisted of 401 patients who were mostly middle-aged females all of whom had chronic low back pain. The participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 treatment groups: full body relaxation massage, targeted deep tissue massage, and usual care, defined as medication and physical therapy. The participants assigned to either massage group each received a one hour massage once a week for ten weeks. After ten weeks the results were surprising. Nearly 2/3 of the people who received either type of massage said their back pain was significantly improved or gone. Only about 1/3 of the “usual care” patients experienced the same type of relief. Some of the participants in the massage groups even reported improved symptoms up to 6 months later!
The study authors expected to prove that deep tissue, or structural massage would work better for the back pain than relaxation massage, but they discovered that BOTH types of massage are equally effective in relieving lower back pain symptoms. It didn’t matter which type of massage was received, the symptoms either improved or went away!
Massage therapy can be a gentle, natural alternative to muscle relaxants and pain medications. Wouldn’t it be great to feel better without taking a bunch of pills? It is wise to visit a doctor with lower back pain symptoms to rule out certain spinal injuries or abnormalities. If the pain is musculoskeletal, then massage therapy could be a great way to get moving again.
What helps with your lower back pain? Exercise, rest, massage, medications, or something else? Please share in the comments.