Drug free pain relief: The healing touch

You’ve got chronic lower back pain. Given the choice between a traditional treatment course of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, or a course of massage therapy, which do you choose? Findings from a recent Seattle based study suggest that for short term relief you would be better off opting for the latter.

The study recruited 401 participants, all suffering from chronic lower back pain, and randomly divided them into three different treatment groups; structural massage, relaxation massage or traditional care, with the two massage groups each receiving weekly treatment.

After 10 weeks the participant feedback revealed some interesting results. More than one in three of those who had received one of the two massage treatment courses reported improvement in their back pain, whereas only one in 25 participants from the traditional care group reported the same. Those receiving massage treatment were also more active, spending fewer days in bed.

Six months later, both types of massage were still linked to improved function. After a year, however, all three groups were reporting similar levels of pain and function.

Surprisingly, little difference was observed between the effects of structural massage and relaxation or Swedish massage, although lead study author Daniel Cherkin had originally expected structural massage, which manipulates specific pain-related back muscles and ligaments, to prove superior. It seems we don’t need to be specialising our therapies in order to make a genuine difference for the individual.

This is really encouraging news. I have always been convinced of the restorative nature of massage and am happy to see it acknowledged here. And if you do have lower back pain, you really have nothing to lose.



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