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Review Shows Benefits of Massage in Low Back Pain

Massage found superior to relaxation, physical therapy and mobilization, but similar to exercise

FRIDAY, July 24 (HealthDay News) -- Massage may offer long-lasting benefits in individuals with subacute or chronic nonspecific low back pain, according to research published in the July 15 issue of Spine.

Andrea D. Furlan, M.D., of the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, and colleagues analyzed data from a systematic review and meta-analyses of 13 randomized trials that assessed the use of massage using hands or a mechanical device for nonspecific low back pain.

The researchers found that in two studies comparing massage to sham treatment, massage was better for pain relief and function at short-term and long-term follow-up. In eight studies comparing massage to active treatments, massage was superior to relaxation therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, self-care education and joint mobilization, but was similar to exercise. The benefits of massage persisted for at least a year after treatment ended. The authors further note that one study showed that acupuncture massage led to better results than classic (Swedish) massage, and another found that Thai and classic massage produced similar results.

"Massage is beneficial for patients with subacute and chronic nonspecific low back pain in terms of improving symptoms and function. Massage therapy is costly, but it may save money in health care provider visits, pain medications, and costs of back care services. The effects of massage are improved if combined with exercise and education. The beneficial effects of massage in patients with chronic low back pain are long lasting (at least one year after end of sessions)," the authors conclude.

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