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Trial Compares Massage Therapies For Back Pain

A recent trial has found that massage therapy helps ease chronic low back pain.  The trial also compared structural and relaxation (Swedish) massage, finding that both types worked well with few side effects.  The results of the randomized controlled trial were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The trial enrolled 400 patients who had suffered low back pain for at least three months.  Their pain was "nonspecific," meaning there was no identified cause.

The patients were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: structural massage, relaxation massage, or usual care, which was most often medications.  The patients receiving massage were given hour-long treatments weekly for 10 weeks.

At 10 weeks, more than one in three patients who received either type of massage said their back pain was much improved or gone.  This compared to only one in 25 patients who got usual care reporting the same result.  Also at 10 weeks, a questionnaire indicated that nearly twice as many massage patients as usual-care patients were functioning significantly better than at the beginning of the trial.

Six months after the trial started, both types of massage were still provided improvements in function.  However, after one year, the benefits of massage were no longer significant.

Generally relaxation massage is a “lighter” form of massage than structural massage.  Structural massage generally involves a more deeper penetration of muscles and connective tissues and often takes a whole body approach.

Posted : Monday, August 1, 2011