If you are a regular consumer of massage therapy then you know how well massage helps prevent and alleviate pain. As a massage therapist and massage consumer myself, I certainly am aware of these benefits. But, it is always nice to see science backing up what we already know...(although this study was limited to chronic low back pain).
The Annals of Internal Medicine published the findings of a study in their July 5, 2011 issue: “A Comparison of the Effects of 2 Types of Massage and Usual Care on Chronic Low Back Pain. A Randomized, Controlled Trial”. (1) The study included 401 participants who were divided into three groups and assigned either massage or usual treatments. One group received full body relaxation massage and another group received targeted deep tissue massage. Those receiving massage got about one hour massage per week for 10 weeks. A third group received "usual treatment" which was medication and physical therapy. (2)
The findings of the study: "Participants who received massage had less pain and were better able to perform daily activities after 10 weeks than those who received usual care. The benefits of massage lasted for 6 months but were less clear at 1 year, when pain and function had improved about equally in all 3 groups". (1)
In the Annals summary for patients, they give these implications of the study: "Ten sessions of massage therapy led to more rapid improvement in low back pain than usual medical care" and there was no apparent difference in results for the two types of massage. (For more details of the study, see the link provided below.)
Low back pain is very common. It is second only to cold symptoms when it comes to complaints that send people to their doctor. (2) I suggest using massage as primary treatment for chronic low back pain (after more serious conditions have been ruled out by your doctor). If someone you care about suffers from chronic low back pain but has been reluctant to choose massage as their treatment, please pass this information on to them...it might make a big difference in their quality of life.
(1) A Comparison of Massage Therapy and Usual Medical Care for Chronic Low Back Pain, published by Annals of Internal Medicine.
(2) news report by Patty Neighmond on NPR
Photo source: Yumi Kimura, at Wikimedia Commons, with this license