Massage therapy can help lower back pain

A study of 103 patients by Indiana University has shown that massage therapy can be an effective treatment for chronic lower back pain.

Assistant professor of health sciences in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and one of the co-first authors of the study, Niki Munk said this was an important finding. Many people over the world suffer from lower back pain.Massage therapy can help lower back pain

Although not a life-threatening condition, back pain is a chronic condition that can lead to time off work, loss of ability to do sport and day to day activities which can also lead to stress and mental health problems.

In the study, more than 50 percent of those who participated experienced clinically meaningful improvements in their low back pain with disability.

“The study can give primary care providers the confidence to tell patients with chronic low back pain to try massage, if the patients can afford to do so,” Munk said.

Previous studies of the effectiveness of massage were conducted in controlled research situations. In this study, patients were referred by a physician to a massage therapist. The massage therapist designed and provided a series of 10 massages — at no cost to the patient — in a clinical treatment environment, mimicking the experience of people who choose to seek massage therapy in the real world.

The study also looked at different characteristics associated with patients being more likely or less likely to experience clinically meaningful change from massage. Among the study’s findings were the following:

  • Adults in the baby-boom and older generations tended to be much more likely to experience clinically meaningful changes.
  • Obese patients experienced significant improvements, but those improvements were not retained over time.
  • Patients who were taking opioids experienced improvements in their pain from disability in some cases but were two times less likely to experience clinically meaningful change compared to those who were not taking opioids.

While the study results are promising, much more work needs to be done, Munk said: “The fact of the matter is that chronic lower back pain is very complex and often requires a maintenance-type approach versus a short-term intervention option.”

Please get in touch with Mihail if you have any questions on how massage therapy can help with this condition.

Further reading

NHS advice on lower back pain

Lower back pain helped by massage therapy finds study by Indiana University

Science daily press release on back pain and massage therapy study

Paper: real world massage therapy produces meaningful results in patients with lower back pain

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