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Massage Research: Massage Therapy is Effective for Pain Relief

Comparing Acupuncture, Therapeutic Massage, & Self-Care Education for Chronic Low Back Pain

Therapeutic massage was effective for persistent low back pain, apparently providing long-lasting benefits. Traditional Chinese Medical acupuncture was relatively ineffective. Massage might be an effective alternative to conventional medical care for persistent back pain.

Archives of Internal Medicine

Complementary & Alternative Medical Therapies for Chronic Low Back Pain

Although participants in this study reported more knowledge of and experience with chiropractic, they were more enthusiastic about massage.

A recent survey of 46,000 Consumer Reports subscribers found that among those who had experienced back pain, the relatively few who had tried deep tissue massage rated it more favorably than those who had tried medications or physical therapy.

The relative popularity of massage may result from the more positive experiences of those who have tried it compared with chiropractic or acupuncture, and higher expectations that massage would be helpful for their current pain.

Moreover, chiropractic users were more likely to report treatment related harm or pain than were users of massage.

BioMed Central Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Subacute Low-Back Pain

Patients with subacute low-back pain were shown to benefit from massage therapy...delivered by experienced massage therapists.

Canadian Medical Association Journal

Effectiveness, Safety, & Cost of Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, & Spinal Manipulation for Back Pain

Preliminary evidence suggests that massage, but not acupuncture or spinal manipulation, may reduce the costs of care after an initial course of therapy.

Annals of Internal Medicine

Efficacy of Massage Therapy in Chronic Pain

Pain improved significantly in both groups*, but only in the massage group was it still significantly improved at follow-up. Depression and anxiety were improved significantly by both treatments, yet only in the massage group maintained at follow-up.

*massage was compared to standard medical care

Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Lower Back Pain & Sleep Disturbance Are Reduced Following Massage Therapy

Massage therapy versus relaxation therapy with chronic low back pain patients was evaluated for reducing pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, for improving trunk range of motion (ROM) and for reducing job absenteeism and increasing job productivity. Thirty adults with low back pain with a duration of at least 6 months pain participated in the study. On the first and last day of the 5-week study participants completed questionnaires and were assessed for ROM. By the end of the study, the massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, reported less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance.

Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies

Lower Back Pain Is Reduced & Range of Motion Increased After Massage Therapy

A randomized between-groups design evaluated massage therapy versus relaxation for chronic low back pain.

By the end of the study, the massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, reported less pain, depression and anxiety and improved sleep. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance, and their serotonin and dopamine levels were higher.

International Journal of Neuroscience

Massage Therapy & Frequency of Chronic Tension Headaches

Compared with baseline values, headache frequency was significantly reduced within the first week of the massage protocol.

The muscle-specific massage therapy technique used in this study has the potential to be a functional, non-pharmacological intervention for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headache.

American Journal of Public Health

Migraine Headaches Are Reduced by Massage Therapy

Twenty-six adults with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to a wait-list control group or to a massage therapy group, who received two 30-minute massages per week for five consecutive weeks. The massage therapy subjects reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache free days, fewer sleep disturbances, and they showed an increase in serotonin levels.

International Journal of Neuroscience

Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

Massage therapy is commonly used during physical rehabilitation of skeletal muscle to ameliorate pain and promote recovery from injury. Although there is evidence that massage may relieve pain in injured muscle, how massage affects cellular function remains unknown.

To assess the effects of massage, we administered either massage therapy or no treatment to separate quadriceps of 11 young male participants after exercise-induced muscle damage. Muscle biopsies were acquired from the quadriceps (vastus lateralis) at baseline, immediately after 10 min of massage treatment, and after a 2.5-hour period of recovery. We found that massage activated the mechanotransduction signaling pathways focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and extracellular signal–regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2), potentiated mitochondrial biogenesis signaling [nuclear peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α)], and mitigated the rise in nuclear factor κB (NFκB) (p65) nuclear accumulation caused by exercise-induced muscle trauma. Moreover, despite having no effect on muscle metabolites (glycogen, lactate), massage attenuated the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor–α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) and reduced heat shock protein 27 (HSP27) phosphorylation, thereby mitigating cellular stress resulting from myofiber injury.

In summary, when administered to skeletal muscle that has been acutely damaged through exercise, massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.

Science Translational Medicine

Patterns & Perceptions of Care for Treatment of Back & Neck Pain

Massage was rated as very helpful for back or neck pain by 65% of the people who tried it. This was higher than for any other therapy, conventional or alternative.

Spine Journal

Massage Research Organizations, Journals

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