Washington: A new study has found that massage therapy helps relieve not only chronic low back pain, and also helps a person to function properly.
Researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial to compare structural and relaxation (Swedish) massages, and discovered that both types worked well, having only a few side effects.
“We found that massage helps people with back pain to function even after six months,” said Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute.
“This is important because chronic back pain is among the most common reasons people see doctors and alternative practitioners, including massage therapists,” he added.
The trial enrolled 400 Group Health Cooperative patients who had low back pain for at least three months. Their pain was ‘non-specific,’ meaning with no identified cause.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of the three treatments i.e. structural massage, relaxation massage or usual care.
Usual care mostly involved medications. The hour-long massage treatments were given weekly for 10 weeks.
It emerged that more than one in three patients who received either type of massage—but only one in 25 patients who got usual care—said their back pain was much better or gone.
Researchers also observed that patients in the massage groups spent fewer days in bed, were more active and used less anti-inflammatory medication than the usual care group.
“As expected with most treatments, the benefits of massage declined over time. But at six months after the trial started, both types of massage were still associated with improved function,” Cherkin said.
However, after one year, the benefits of massage were no longer significant.
The study has been published in the current edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.