July 5, 2011 — Massage may be serious medicine, at least when it comes to treating persistent low back pain, a new study shows.
Low back pain is one of the top reasons people seek medical attention in the U.S., and it is notoriously tough to treat. Studies show very few medical therapies, from medications to injections to surgeries, reliably relieve it, and some can aggravate the problem.
The new study randomly assigned 400 adults with moderate-to-severe low back pain lasting for at least three months to either weekly whole-body massages for relaxation, weekly massages that focused on specific muscle problems around the lower back and hips, or usual care.
After 10 weeks, participants in both massage groups reported greater average improvements in pain and functioning compared to those in the usual care group. And the type of massage they received didn’t seem to matter.
“It’s not really harmful, and it does help a significant chunk of people who have not benefited from other treatments,” says study researcher Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, associate director and senior scientific investigator with the Center for Health Studies at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.
The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It’s published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
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