As many as 80% of adults will experience an episode of low back pain in their lifetimes. In fact, low back pain ranks as a top reason people in the U.S. seek medical attention, and results are often disappointing.
Treatments vary from medication to injections, even surgery. And yet few find permanent relief. Some “treatments” even make symptoms worse. Researcher Richard A. Deyo, MD, a professor in the department of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland comments:
“Over the last 15 years or so, there’s been a steady increase in the use surgery, prescribing of opioids, in the use of injections in the use of spine imaging,” Deyo says, “and overall, population-wide, it doesn’t seem to have helped very much in reducing the impact of back problems.”
Recent studies indicate, however, that massage therapy may prove effective where other modalities fail to deliver. In a study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, compared to those in the usual care group, massage groups reported greater average improvements in low back pain and functioning.
The study randomly assigned 400 adults with moderate-to-severe low back pain to either weekly whole-body massages for relaxation, weekly massages that focused on specific muscle problems around the lower back and hips, or usual care. For the “usual care” group, researchers tracked results, but allowed participants to treat symptoms themselves. Typically, they chose pain medications or muscle relaxants, seeing doctors or chiropractors, physical therapy, or simply doing nothing. In the end, both massage groups demonstrated improvement beyond that of the third, usual care group.
For many, the improvements seen with massage were modest, though higher than for those using some form of self-care. But at the end of the 10-week study, 36% and 39% of patients in the massage groups said their pain was nearly or completely gone, compared to 4% in the usual care group.
Roger Chou, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, who helped to write the 2009 American Pain Society guidelines for treating low back pain comments:
“I think the study is quite consistent with what we have in our guideline, and it adds to the evidence that’s out there. It strengthens the case to consider massage as one of the potential treatment options for chronic low back pain.”
If you are one of the millions suffering from low back pain, remember that a premium massage chair delivers quality massage, at home and on-demand. Depending on your specific problem the best massage chairs for lower back pain include the Panasonic MA-J7, MA-73, and Brio.
Goodman, Brenda. “Study: Massage Helps Treat Low Back Pain.” WebMD, WebMD, 5 July 2011, www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20110705/study-massage-helps-treat-low-back-pain#1.
Walsh, Allison. “Getting the Right Massage for Low Back Pain.” Spine-Health, 24 June 2015, www.spine-health.com/blog/getting-right-massage-low-back-pain.