July 4th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Got lower back pain? Massage may help!

Americans spend at least $50 billion each year to treat lower back pain, the second most common neurological problem in the U.S. after headaches, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that massage may be an effective therapy for treating lower back pain, when compared with conventional medical treatment.

When patients visit the doctor with lower back pain, the usual  treatments include  medications for pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms, as well as prescribing physical therapy, back exercises and educating patients about possible causes of back pain and methods for preventing future injuries.

But many people seek out alternative therapies for lower back pain relief, and massage is one of the most popular, accounting for over one-third of the more than 100 million annual massage therapy visits, according to the study. The authors note that while recent studies have found limited evidence that massage helps  chronic back pain,  none compared different massage methods for lower back pain relief  against usual medical therapy, which is what the researchers did in this study.

The study included 401 participants  20 to 65 years old who had chronic low back pain whose cause was not known. They were randomly divided into three groups: 133 participants received usual medical care without massage, 132 participants received structural massage, which identifies and massages muscular and skeletal causes of lower back pain, and 136 participants received relaxation massage, which is also called Swedish massage, and is intended to produce a general relaxed state.

Participants in the two massage groups received about one hour of massage per week for 10 weeks. All participants answered questionnaires at baseline, 10 weeks, 26 weeks, and 52 weeks to rate how bothersome their back pain was.

The study revealed that both types of massage therapy resulted in less pain and better mobility than usual care patients after 10 weeks. Both types of massage showed improved function at 26 weeks, but their benefits were of questionable significance at the one-year mark. The authors are careful to note that the reasons for the benefits  are unclear, but they speculate that massage may trigger beneficial tissue and nervous system responses. Another possibility is that  being touched in a relaxing environment  produces the positive effects that the massage groups experienced.

soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Dr. Josh

    "Sadly, Richard Deyo, MD, MPH must not have had on his thinking cap when he participated in this particular study.

    Dr. Deyo, if you were thinking about the psychometric properties of the Roland Disability Questionnaire, you would readily know that minimal important change may possibly vary based on the initial intake scores. Furthermore, you should definitely know the standard error of measurement of any tool utilized to capture change. To arbitrarily set clinically meaningful change based on who knows what especially when the arbitrarily defined clinically meaningful change just happens to fall within the standard error of measurement, the research will have problems. The problem with the findings will be highly elevated positive outcomes and misinterpretation of the results of the study. And Dr. Deyo, I think you know exactly what I am talking about – I don't think you are ignorant to psychometric properties of questionnaires – not at all... I think you were involved in another paper published in Spine 2008 which defined minimal important change for the Roland Disability Questionnaire as 5 points?  "

    The above is an excerpt and a great summary.   Explain that one.  Food for thought .   Makes me wonder who is screening all the garbage going into these journals.

    Just my 2 cents

    Dr. Josh

    July 9, 2011 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. david hin

    Personally i used mobile massage therapist that I found on Servemehere

    July 15, 2011 at 02:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Beth

    I tried physical therapy and medication , medication helps for the swelling no one can touch my back till the swelling goes down. After the swelling goes down a little a back massage is the best after all people with back problems is not just the back that hurts but the rest of your body tenses up because of the pain in the back.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Latesh

      It depends on how much tnianirg your state requires and how much tnianirg you want to pay for. The average is about 500 hours of tnianirg a few states require 1000 hours. Most schools offer more than the basic required amount so that you can apply for pell grants and other financial aid. The massage profession is a a very big crossroads right now with lots of changes going on. If I were going to massage school now I would take the 3-4 year programs in Canada or find one in the US which I am not even sure if they exist. The reason being is that massage is becoming more medically accepted. It also take a lot to start your own business so the more business and marketing and ethics you can get under your belt the better your chances of success.

      September 13, 2012 at 23:42 | Report abuse |
  4. Beth

    For loss of weight doesn't help .The only thing that helps is that you have less weight to carry around with you but if you have say arthritis that it wouldnt help , your pain is still there . They use to say if you loose weight you will see a difference but they have seen over the years that it doesn't make that much of a difference.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marian

      The video leaves as many ueasnwernd questions as it answers. Now, to be fair there probably wasn't time enough to address it in the time allotted, but I still think the main thing the video failed to make clear is whether or not this is relaxing. There were some things about hot stones and whatnot, but I am still uncertain about the level of relaxation this technique provides, or if it is even relaxing at all. Perhaps it deserves a second viewing, as there is a lot to absorb here.

      September 14, 2012 at 01:47 | Report abuse |
  5. Ansh

    Massage Therapy is good but I think it will not solve this problem permanently, it will give temporary relief from back pain, i would recommend to use massage chair viz RelaxStation Massage Chair or Deluxe ComfortStation Massage Chair.

    July 19, 2011 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. A.R.Shams


    July 20, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. A.R.Shams


    July 20, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. upper back pain treatment

    To get easy and fast relief from upper back pain so that we should doing regular exercises, because it is very well and keep good our body.

    August 11, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Keliv Park

    Looking for fast pain relief without the risk of surgery ? Visit our site for more information. Upper Back Pain Treatment

    August 11, 2011 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dr. Richard Schwartz

    If allopathic medicine had all the answers then there would be no alternatives.

    September 1, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr. Richard Schwartz


      September 1, 2011 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
    • Sinan

      There are more correlational steuids supporting the idea that regular massage sessions can help decrease the symptoms associated with clinical depression. Unfortunately, I have no direct references to support this claim. However, after speaking with a psychiatrist, who within the last year, visited a national educational convention, stated hearing many references to research that supports this concept. Some of the benefits included the regulation of seratonin levels and the decrease of stress-linked sterols in the bloodstream. Most people reported a better sense of well-being in general. These subjects may have received one hour massages once per week for 8-10 weeks. However, once every two weeks should still be effective.

      September 14, 2012 at 01:14 | Report abuse |
  11. Graham

    Massage might be good option when you are looking for therapy for your back pain. But, I prefer to do stretching as a way to remove my back pain. The most important thing to do is to prevent in order not to suffer from back pain.


    September 23, 2011 at 05:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Johannes Klupfel

    I have been having back pain for the last 20 years due to a fall in the mid l970,s. I have had 3 back surgeries and am now wearing an implanted back stimulator that was implanted about ll/2 years ago. I am still taking medication. I have just started taking Oxycontin with a back up of OXYCODONE apap 10-325. I am still in pain unless I take an Oxycontin every 3 to 4 hours. The doctor is in the process of "back pain remedy" deciding how much pain medication per day to "back pain relief" keep me free of pain.
    Can you please help me with other things that I could do in order to stop the pain.
    I will try most anything at this point.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. vazquezdorothy56

    Its been a week i been searching for a blog on How to Get Rid of Back Pain. Thank you for sharing 🙂
    The information that you have shared here in your blog is very great! Its a great video. It can help me so much! Thank you again keep blogging 🙂

    November 21, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dadan Durden

    Back pain relief exercises - just how powerful are these kinds of workouts and also wouldn't it assist you to can early intervention improve persistent lumbar pain cure chargespain relief exercises for back pain

    January 15, 2012 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. back lumbar pain

    Your back should have a natural curve in the lower back section which means that you could easily get a back spasm just from (stooping|bending} over to pick something up.It is alwaysbest to bend your legs slightly & lift the weight through your lower body whilst isolating your back so that it doesn"t bear the full brunt of lifting the object.

    January 23, 2012 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Piseth

      We're the same with the wargames club. We used to atdsrviee in print media, but for the last 4 years, everyone has found us via the web site.I guess that it won't be only through the blog, but also through the other media that you use.Best wishes,Duncan

      September 12, 2012 at 02:34 | Report abuse |
  16. Back Pain Doctor

    So many people are having this pain yet cure and prevention are very easy and doable.

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    Find Out How You Can Save Your Lower Back Before It is Too Late >> Free Back Pain Support

    January 29, 2012 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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  18. Deni

    Massage Therapy can be a profitable caerer however it can take years to build a successful practice. You must really like people and be able to separate yourself from others emotions (like a nurse or a doctor). Working in a spa can afford you a steady income and benefits but not the same income as private practice. What you can charge for a massage varies greatly by town/city/state/region.It is a very strenuously job, and most people only stay in the field for 5-8 years due to burnout or injury.I would recommend that if you are interested that find out if any massage schools in your area hold discovery workshops in which you get a one-day crash course.I love my caerer and don’t regret entering it at all, but I would recommend that you look into it seriously before you make the schooling commitment.

    September 13, 2012 at 22:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Massage Therapist Training Headquarters

    Great to see that massage therapy, slowly but surely, continues to gain mainstream support. We think this shows the industry outlook is outstanding and is why we built http://www.massagetherapisttraininghq.com

    August 6, 2014 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sandro

    Of course , massag helps, as i have back pains often massages and stretches are best way , http://spinalpainrelief.com is about pain in lower right back which is also very common , i recommend it, my chiro checked and everything is ok.

    November 17, 2014 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. theedinburghmassage

    There's some good info in this blog about lower back pain and how massage can help

    April 3, 2015 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Melissa

    Thankyou for posting! There is nothing better for low back pain than a massage! The benefits are numerous. Of course the doctors don't want to tell you that. They would lose money by you getting a massage.. and when they cant give you meds its a $ loss for them .

    June 29, 2016 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. sandnesspeak

    Back pain is pain felt in the back. Episodes of back pain may be acute, sub-acute, or chronic depending on the duration. The
    pain may be characterized as a dull ache, shooting or piercing pain, or a burning sensation. So take care about yourself.

    July 20, 2016 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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