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Massage Therapy Relieves Symptoms of Low Back Pain

Last Updated: July 05, 2011.

Patients with chronic low back pain have shown improved function and decreased pain with massage therapy, according to a study published in the July 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

TUESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with chronic low back pain have shown improved function and decreased pain with massage therapy, according to a study published in the July 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Daniel C. Cherkin, Ph.D., from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, and colleagues compared the efficacy of relaxation and structural massage with that of usual care for reducing pain and improving function in 401 patients (aged 20 to 65 years) with chronic low back pain. A total of 132 participants were randomized to receive structural massage, 136 to receive relaxation massage, and 133 to receive usual care. The outcomes were measured at 10, 26, and 52 weeks using the Roland Disability Questionnaire (RDQ) and symptom bothersomeness scores, with mean group differences of at least 2 and 1.5 points, respectively, considered clinically meaningful.

The investigators found that, at 10 weeks, the functional outcomes were similar for the massage groups. Compared to the usual care group, the adjusted mean RDQ score and symptom bothersomeness scores were 2.9 and 1.7 points, respectively, lower in the relaxation group, and 2.5 and 1.4 points, respectively, lower in the structural massage group. At 52 weeks, the relaxation massage group showed small but persistent benefits on function, but not on symptom reduction.

"Massage therapy may be effective for treatment of chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least six months. No clinically meaningful difference between relaxation and structural massage was observed in terms of relieving disability or symptoms," the authors write.

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