Treating Chronic Lower Back Pain with Massage

lower back painChronic back pain is often a debilitating condition that limits the ability perform normal functions such as showering, getting dressed, undertaking physical activities, and even working.

And for many who suffer from chronic lower back pain that isn’t the result of a structural or skeletal issue, it is all the more frustrating when more traditional treatments fail to resolve the problem.

A group of researchers from the Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of Vermont, and the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, compared two types of massage with the standard treatment approaches in randomized, controlled trial of 401 adults with “nonspecific chronic lower back pain.”

Patients were either assigned to get usual care (133 people), weekly structural massages (132 people), or weekly relaxation massages (136 people) for 10 weeks and assessed at the end of that period as well as at 6 months and one year using the Roland Disability Questionnaire and symptom bothersomeness scores.

After 10 weeks of treatment the groups getting massage treatments had significantly better scores based on both measures. The differences remained at six months and at 1 year “but were small.”

“Massage therapy may be effective for treatment of chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least 6 months,” The researchers concluded. “No clinically meaningful difference between relaxation and structural massage was observed in terms of relieving disability or symptoms.”

The study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine was funded by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

At Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, patients with back pain can access a broad range of treatment and rehabilitation options from nationally recognized experts in our Department of Orthopedics; Department of Rehabilitation Medicine; rehab therapy services; and pain management-trained anesthesiologists, psychologists and nurses.

And as a complement to these more traditional therapies, the team of physiatrists, lifestyle experts and musculoskeletal specialists of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and at the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Program offer an integrative approach.

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