Massage Therapy for Effective Pain Management

Source: Spine Health

At large, research has demonstrated that massage is a beneficial and safe therapy that can ease stress, loosen tense muscles, and enhance the release of endorphins. In light of this, two large systematic review studies have demonstrated acute, short-term benefits for massage in the treatment of chronic pain and particularly lower back pain. A systematic review describes when researchers evaluate many large databases of separate studies to assemble the results of comparable studies and get a broad view of the results.

Results from the First Study

One of these reviews comprised 25 studies totaling greater than 3,000 participants. The evaluated studies compared alterations in either pain or function in people suffering from low back pain after receiving massage therapy, compared to those whom received no therapy or a different therapy. There was a minor yet significant improvement in short-term pain for people who received massage therapy. On the other hand, there was no difference in improvement over the long term, as well as no differences in function during any time span.

Results from the Second Study

The second of these review studies was a large umbrella study that reviewed 9 prior systematic reviews. As each studies review comprised findings from up to 11 previous studies, the umbrella review encompassed dozens of investigations. This study concluded that there is a slight amount of proof that massage therapy can alleviate pain in the short-term, while simultaneously improving function, compared to people whom received no therapy or a different therapy. Further, there was no evidence of advantages stemming from long-term (greater than 6 months) massage therapy. Overall, despite the fact that many studies have been performed evaluating massage therapy for low back pain, the supporting evidence of its benefits is still quite weak over a sustained period of time. This may be the result of massage studies being susceptible to uncontrolled methods and a high bias risk. 

Regardless of the lack of concrete evidence supporting the benefits of massage therapy, there is no damage in trying massage therapy in conjunction with other treatment methods.