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 (115 Responses)
  1. Jim

    How effective this is going to be really depends on the reason for the back pain. If it is caused by something like a herniated disc, stenosis or some other "mechanical" defect/problem then it really is unlikely that massage therapy is going to do much good. Also, in certain cases massage therapy may do more harm than good so it is important to know why you are having back pain before running out and signing up for therapy.

    I have suffered from chronic, severe back pain for years and have tried every non surgical procedure, treatment and therapy there is, and yes I do know the cause of rather in my case causes of the pain.

    I am not telling anyone not to try it, as in certain instances such as "unknown" pain, pain caused by muscles or due to diminished circulation just to name a few massage therapy may indeed offer a significant reduction.

    July 5, 2011 at 05:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anahadwolves

      You make several valid points, not the least of which is determining the cause/causes of that lower back pain before trying massage or anything else. First, get a medical diagnosis of the basic cause(s) and then consult with your professional physician before committing to something that may be (A) useless or even (B) harmful.

      July 5, 2011 at 07:29 | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      There have been some medical studies done which indicated that massage therapy, at the onset of cervical stenosis, can slow the progression of the disease. Since some people can't handle the pain killers or anti-inflammatory meds, it's another option for them along with neck exercises. If nothing more, it gives them some additional time before reaching the surgical option.

      July 5, 2011 at 07:51 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Keep in mind that should someone be suffering from a herniated disc, stenosis or some other "mechanical" defect/problem, that it is quite common he/she will also have an accompanying muscle spasm. Not only are the herniated disc, stenosis or some other "mechanical" defect/problem causes of pain so is the spasming itself. Using massage to decrease the spasm is, will in fact reduce one of the pain mechanisms. In other words the person may not get total pain relief but may have some pain relief which is associated with the accompanying spasm thus allowing them to perform their Activities of daily living (ADL'S) in a decreased pain environment. With this being stated some, not all require a muti-disciplinary approach to achieve the the best outcome!!!

      July 5, 2011 at 08:56 | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      I agree with your point about yhe cause of the pain. I had back surgery in 2003, my spine is fused at two levels and I recovered completely and returned to work. However, one year later I felt a searing pain, went back to see my doctor and several others and was diagnosed with Adhesive Arachnoiditis. Although massage helped me greatly in the past, I can not bear to have anyone even touch my lower back now. I tried every alternative offered to delay surgery and after surgery when I was diagnosed with AA, there are only medications to ease the pain and spasms. Exercise, massage, accupuncture and physical therapy can only be effective if you can tolerate them. Until there is a treatment or cure many of us will just have to wait, pray and hold on.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  2. John

    The reason the massage was of questionable significance at the 1 year mark can often be because they continue to aggrevate their back through occupational or lifestyle activities so they will need regular 'maintenance' treatments.
    John. Massage Therapist.

    July 5, 2011 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. dar

    I feel that massage is a great relief of back pain, i suffer from lower back pain and massage once a week is great

    July 5, 2011 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snodgrass

      I know what you mean, those lounges around the pool really so a number to my back.

      July 6, 2011 at 00:15 | Report abuse |
  4. Selena Horner

    This article is an example of not truly understanding statistics and erroneously applying a misinterpretation. To define a clinically meaningful difference as a 2 point change or more on the Roland Disability Questionnaire is wrong. Outcome research seems to indicate that the standard error of measurement for the Roland is 4-5 points. A clinically meaningful difference can't fall within the standard error of measurement. What this study demonstrates that neither type of massage provides any functional benefit for people who have chronic low back pain.

    July 5, 2011 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      Actually, it seems pretty clear. It says that people rated their symptoms better with massage than with usual care. You use a lot of big words but it seems to just muddle the message, in my mind. By the way, I am an MD, for what that's worth. I think it's a promising study, and if it holds true, I would think that one hour of massage weekly would be cheaper than the alternatives.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
    • Jeffre

      I would say that people should read the article before commenting, it is free on the annals website. The thing with back pain or any medical treatment for that matter is that everyone is different and respond differently to treatments. I do no like massages for example. I tried one once and just did not like it. Maybe it was the MT, I don't know. Same with pain meds, Physical Therapy, Chiro, whatever. I am not saying that massage is not helpfull. Turn the lights down low, put on some nice music and have some one give you a massage and I would guess the majority of people say they feel better, regardless if they have any pain or not.
      I am not going to quote stats on standard deviation or minimal detectable change because people on this board don't know about it and don't care. I will be interested if there is a response in the next issue of annals and to read the authors response. I will say that the selection criteria narrowed the type of patient down to what could be considered a postural/ muscle strain diagnosis. So in a way they hand picked their population. The participants also did not have to pay for the treatment. While not unusual in a study, I feel most people would be very excited to get a free massage once a week for 10 wks. Finally looking at the charts there really does not seem to be a very big difference between groups after 10 wks. This matters because this means it is not a fix and the control group has similar scores. So really to maintain the perceived level of relief you would need to get a massage once or twice a week for the rest of your life.
      Look, if you like massage and it feels good and you can afford $50-$100 a week then knock yourself out. But don't think that you are doing more than treating a symptom.

      July 6, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
  5. ned

    Get a neuromuscular massage and start regular swimming in a pool. Stay away from the knife.

    July 5, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mark

    Find a massage therapist with a medical background like my wife. She an Masters in Athletic Training, Massage Therapy degree & is a Wellness Coach. She has over 100 courses she has completed outside of here schooling and understands the picture. I have seen her save so many people from "pharmageddon" and mainstream medecine. If you find the right person with the correct course of study, (in my opinion) you will be better off. Good luck.

    July 5, 2011 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. DJ

    Find a good chiropractor.

    July 5, 2011 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RichG

      Although chiropractic care is great but some chiropractors do recommend massage. My chiropractor has a massage therapist in her office, they are both magnificent.

      July 5, 2011 at 08:15 | Report abuse |
  8. mom of three

    I have had masage therapy, physical therapy and chiropractic care. I found out that the masage before being adjusted was the best. It relaxes your muscles before they turn you this way and that. I had been in a car reck and had major whiplash and swelling in my L3, L4 disk. It only took 2 months before I could move around and do my normal daily routine. I only have one adjustment a month now and doing great as long as I keep up what the doc has fixed.

    July 5, 2011 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RichG

    I can't stand physical therapy, it's pretty much useless. Chiropractic care and massage therapy are the best.

    July 5, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sanjosemike

      Chiropractic does work in many cases. But it is just another form of physical therapy. This is not to disparage either. Massage is also another form of physical therapy.


      July 5, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse |
  10. Momma Zonie

    LMT is usually NOT a covered expense on Insurance plans. Have been through back surgery for disk issue (it worked) but cause was my own over-use stupidity. Also use Massage Therapy for my chronic muscle spasm, OA issues and residual pain from waiting months for Ins. to approve surgery. I prefer not to rely on pain meds (including OTC's). Surgery is intrusive, but insurance paid for it. Massage Therapy (Deep Tissue) is not a covered treatment under my Medicare/Humana unless within the care of a Chiro – and paid at a much lower amount than the $70/ hour charged by a LMT. So, unless you are fairly well off, spending $70 a week for a LMT is financially impossible. Also, I have yet to meet a LMT who has a clue how to even fill out an Ins. form. Another reason they work under a DC.

    July 5, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jorge

      Well hello there! I am a massage therapist licensed in the state of Oregon and I routinely fill out forms and bill insurance companies for whiplash and motor vehicle related injuries. I do it in a computer, or by old fashion pen and paper. But then again I worked in Banking for 20 years and got a degree in finance before I changed careers to something that is fulfilling, healthier for me and just plain better. Nice to meet you! 🙂

      July 6, 2011 at 02:57 | Report abuse |
  11. andrew

    looks like everyone in here, sounds like an authority on something they know nothing about.
    Reread the article. It just presenting basic information, that the Greeks, Romans, Asians and all ancient civilizations knew centuries ago. Remember, they knew massage worked. we know for a fact Roman soldiers even used massage therapy as their healing medicine after battles.
    Its not just about muscles, its about all the soft tissue, and the nervous system. There's even more to it then that. in reality.
    Its about taking care of yourself.
    Also, remember,this article was written about the general healthy populations.

    July 5, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sumo

    This just in: "Massages help back pain"!

    Today's other headlines: "The sky is blue" and "Water is wet".

    July 5, 2011 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • April, LMT

      I'm with Sumo upon reading the "stunning" headline.

      "Duh" was my response.

      Hello twenty-first century. Some of us had the revalation twenty or more years ago. Glad ya'll are catching up!

      This just in: I have MDs who come to me for massage therapy – wow!

      July 5, 2011 at 09:22 | Report abuse |
  13. Mark

    Read "Clean" by Alejandro Junger, it will open your eyes to some lifestyle changes you should be making. Andrew, no expert here...but I am married to one...

    July 5, 2011 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • andrew


      July 5, 2011 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  14. theminx

    I have a herniated disc. While the original PT worked (20+ years ago) now, the only thing that brings me relief is massage. My husband has very sensitive hands and he can usually zoom in directly on the spot that is aching or spasming. After a couple of minutes, I'm as good as new.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Rajan

    Yoga has the greatest potential for curing back pain. Having worked with several persons with chronic back pain I can vouch for yoga's effectiveness. The yogic approach is holistic and focuses on gentle postures and also relaxation and mental suggestions in the form of techniques like Shavasana and Yoga Nidra. But if you want to succeed then you must have patience and stick with yoga for at least 6 months AND also find a good teacher who takes a holistic approach and not just a structural approach which looks at back pain due to a structural defect in the spine.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. mybackshurts

    No fix for Sciatica.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • keith

      yes there is....you just have found the wrong doctor. You know you are allowed to get a second opinion. Most doctors only say something as a guess along the lines 'I think this will help' and it actually never does any good, may actually do more harm than anything. Go find yourself a different doctor

      July 5, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse |
    • mountaindawg

      Not trying to be mean but a few questions for you. Are you overweight? Do you sit in a chair for long periods of time? Do you stretch? Do you exercise? Do you get massage? I don't know your situation so I don't want to generalize but these are some of the causes of sciatica. It is up to you to get better.

      July 5, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • GreenTaro

      @mybackhurts, I had sciatica pain for 2 month that radiated down to my hip and leg. Tried 3 different chiropractors using iice, electric message, nothing worked. Then I tried acupuncture (I know it's hard to believe), but it worked beautifully. 3 visits, pain in my hip and leg were gone, but a spot remained on my lower back pain. Then luckily, I found another chiropractor who really knows how to twist my spin and finally, that little spot was gone as well. Though, I had to keep walking for 30 minutes a day for a whole week afterwards to build up the muscle, but at least now, I'm a pain free man once again. Please give it a try, i know how painful it can be.

      July 5, 2011 at 10:04 | Report abuse |

      I have severe spinal stenosis and get really painful sciatica from time to time. At a friend's suggestion, I started having accupuncture done at the first sign of pain now, and it helps every time. The first time I put up with the pain for about a month and just couldn't take it anymore. I had some relief after the first treatment and after about three weeks, I was pain free. You might want to try it.

      July 5, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      could be something as simple as as the periformis tightening and pinching the sciatic nerve. (can be solved by stretching).
      Ask about it.

      July 5, 2011 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
    • southernhrt

      Have you tried a chiro and massage. I have had this problem on and off and very deep tissue and trigger point massage have helped me.

      July 6, 2011 at 01:30 | Report abuse |
  17. keith

    Wow gupta, nice that you are telling us something that has been known for years and that any chiro or massage therapist will know when they open the door of their office the first time. Geeez you people are slow

    July 5, 2011 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. mountaindawg

    I'm a neuromuscular therapist. I don't claim to "know it all" but I do know that I have seen clients come in walking with a cane, and walk out looking like a completely different person. Even if we don't "cure" them, that little bit of relief is invaluable to these people. I believe that a multi-pronged approach is best. Massage, chiro, yoga, swimming, meds if needed can all work hand in hand to help these chronic pain sufferers live a more normal life. Unfortunately, many people want the doctor, or chiropractor, or massage therapist to "fix" them. The client must help themselves though, with a better lifestyle. Many don't want to put the effort in. For these folks, you just do the best you can and move on.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Iseman

    Agreed Keith. Gupta is not only stating the obvious but also completely non committal: Massagae 'may' help. Jeez, So 'may' coca cola.... While certain back pain needs more serious intervention, the majority of back pain sufferers really do need at least 1 of the following a. lose weight! Big Belly equals Back Pain- We are not supposed to be overweight! b. Exercise- Strengthening core muscles (from the back all the way around including abs and stretching! How many people actually do this every day? Not many. c. simple ergonomics- how we sit around at the office or at home. Our bodies are not made to sit as we do and we are not there yet in an evolutionary sense.

    It really is not so difficult but yet we still refuse to take the easiest and most common preventive and solution laden methods. These do not fix every type of back pain, but certainly many of the types.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Vickie

    For years I have used multiple means of managing my lower back pain. The pain is caused by whiplash from a car accident as well as lower back arthritis. The doctor for anti inflamitory meds as well as chiro twice a month and massage therapy twice a month. If I miss either the chiro or massage therapy, I am in a greater level of pain and, at times, require pain meds. For me this is enough to confirm that I require all three areas of expertise. IMO, you have to start with the medical doctor to find out the reason for the pain and then progress from there as to what works best for you. I gave each therapy a good 4 to 6 months trial to see if it helped or not until I found what works for me. Yes, I tried other things – physical therapy and weights, etc. This works best for me.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. GreenTaro

    My best recommendation according to experience was to try acupuncture, chiropractor and light exercise. I had sciatica pain that radiated down to my leg for 2 month, I could barely walk 5 minutes without sitting down. Before, I never believed in the needle stuff, but after my first visit, seeing how a small needle could cause my lower back muscle involuntarily spasm (in a good way) and I could walk a bit longer, I returned for my second visit and well, I could walk 1 hour afterwards. Third visit, pain in my hip and leg were completely gone, but a spot remained on my lower back. (a great improvement) Then I tried a Chiropractor who really adjusted my spine (I could hear crackling noises when he did it) and voilla, after another week, with some reasonable walking exercises (30 minutes at a time), pain no more.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Patrick

    The other possibility is that it is a placebo not unlike accupuncture. Still getting a massage couldn't hurt.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Brandon

    Really? Wow. Knock me down with a feather.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. CJ

    A massage along with a handy works wonders for my back pain....

    July 5, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Benny

      Rub n' Tug anyone? You tip?

      July 5, 2011 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
  25. Benny

    I'm not sure if replying to "Matt" is worth the time but I feel it relevant. You are absolutely correct. The loss of weight can in fact relieve some of the pain associated with lower back pain. You fail to realize that in some, if not most, cases where weight is an issue the pain is a result of damage done to the spine. Once the damage has occured the most basic of exercises causes and exaserbates the problem further. Some choose to rely solely on diet at that point but most fall quickly into depression.
    I was 26 yrs old when I broke my back in the Army. I was 6'2", 255lbs and in perfect shape. Possibly far beyond as I was super conscience of my fitness due to my occupation. I went overnight from benching sets of 400lbs to fighting to walk again. I won my personal battle but I lost my weight battle now weighing 340lbs and not having 1/2 the muscle mass I had. I and many of my fellows with back pain fight every day just to walk.
    Maybe if you weren't so quick to insults you would realize that there are always extenuating issues to those of us that are "fat azz Americans".

    July 5, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maria

      Most of my back pain is associated with my enormous breasts. I can't drop the weight from them. Surgery is the only fix. If only I could exercise them to a smaller size!!

      July 5, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      Maria, you might be able to get your insurance to pay for breast reduction surgery, given your diagnosis. It's worth a try. In your case it is absolutely NOT cosmetic.


      July 5, 2011 at 22:01 | Report abuse |
    • snodgrass

      you can strengthen you muscles enough to support your fat globules. You sound like you are trying to brag though. Fix your belly fat first, I can bet it sticks out further than your breasticles.

      July 6, 2011 at 00:19 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Strengthening your lower back muscles with moderate weight training, good posture and Massage can help with that, and don't forget to drink lots of water 🙂
      Jorge Manuel Kuri, LMT

      July 6, 2011 at 03:11 | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      Sounds good to me. 🙂

      July 6, 2011 at 07:25 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      I know someone that had to have a breast reduction because of her shoulder/back pain. What a difference getting a breast reduction done to her life. She no longer looks slumped over from her shoulders from the weight of her breast and pain around her neck and shoulders to her mid back , and she doesn't have indentation on her shoulders anymore from the bra strap. It's a medical problem not cosmetic. Ask your family doctor . When you see the specialist ask to see photos of his work.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      I was very active 5'8" and 125# when my back problems started. I worked out 5 nights a week, had a full time job and went to school at night. I still swim, but can not work, clean my house, drive my car, work in my garden or run with my dogs. I still keep flexible and watch my weight, but until there is a cure or any tratment for Adhesive Arachnoiditis, I will wear my narcotic patch and take my meds, praying for relief.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      I don't pretend to know the answer to your problem, but I have a suggestion. Your weight training required a high calorie diet with various suppliments and a high protein diet. Now that you no longer lift, your diet is the same.

      Become a vegan vegetarian. You will shed almost 100 lbs without pain or effort. Start walking 2 miles/day. Since you are heavy, you need excellent shoe gear. See a podiatrist before you take this on. Get orthotics.

      Good luck. This works. (and absolutely NO, NO, NO alcohol!)


      July 5, 2011 at 21:59 | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      are you a doctor

      July 5, 2011 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
  26. Tamara

    Massage Therapy should always be considered as a viable option. Most people today are looking for alternatives to pills, steroid injection overuse and invasive surgery, why wouldn't you try regular massage therapy before going under the knife? Massage has many benefits even when pain is not a factor, it moves the lymphphatic fluids which cleanse inflammation causing bacteria; thus helping to rid the body of toxins. It helps reduce stress, we know that stress has been proven to break down our immune system's responses which can lead to damaged cells which further can become cancer. Contact a good Massage Therapist before surgery or injections if that doesn't work get a few opinions before invasive treatments of any kind . Tamara Dobson, LMT, NCTM

    July 5, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pookie Nani

      Very Eloquently put. I love massages, which, provides relaxation to my muscles and I get a good night sleep. I endorse your prescription of wellness.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
  27. Wm. Farrell

    After years of searching I found something that works and has lasting results for lower back pain. For me it was like hitting the reset button on my bad back. I feel 15 years younger!

    I'm a 40 year old male who suffered with bad lower back pain for nearly 20 years following a snowboarding accident which broke several bones in my lower back. The only thing that helped my bad lower back was a form of massage called Rolfing. Check out the site which can help you find a Rolfer in your area – http://rolf.org/ .

    Similar to massage but Rolfing is more of a targeted precise massage that should be done by a certified Rolfer found with help from the the Rolf.org site.

    I had four bulging discs in my back including L4 and L5 (among the most common associated with low back pain). I tried a number of Chiropractors, spend over $3,000 on spinal decompression (DRX 9000 – what a joke that was) with no relief. I tried acupuncture which helped with acute pain but wasn't a lasting cure for me. A friend told me about Rolfing and what it involved and it sounded pretty simple. I committed to try it for four sessions – I felt relief after the first Rolfing session and got better with each session after the first.

    Rolfing is super simple and does NOT include manipulation of your bones. I was told Rolfing can be done along side Chiro adjustments but I went solidly with the Rolfing. It sounds simple and it really is but with amazing results.

    Give Rolfing a try. It could be the thing that gives you your life back. It did for me.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sanjosemike

      Mr Farrell, I do agree with you that Rolfing could help. But it is just another form of physical therapy, like chiropractic and massage. But people with refractory back pain should try it, absolutely.


      July 5, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
  28. Terri

    I wish I could afford a theraputic massage weekly! I pay $60 for an hour theraputic and it does wonders for my chronic low back pain caused by spina bifida. The results are lasting and I sure would go once a week if I could afford it. I pay a huge amount each year in medical insurance but chiropractic and massage therapy are what truly give me relief and my insurance does not pay for massage at all and limited visits to the Chiropractor. Once a month would even be a blessing. Insurance companies are so stupid.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tamara

      I agree Terri, Insurance companies could likely save alot of money if they covered Doctor prescribed Massage sessions and lowered the price of co-pays for Chiropractic care as well.

      Tamara Dobson, LMT, NCTM

      July 5, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
  29. NSP

    May help? Will help. Massage is a brilliant and extremely useful tool that's been successfully practiced for centuries.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Christie D

    The actual results of this study are actually quite unimpressive. The changes seen in both the RMDQ and in symptom bothersomeness are really clinically insignificant. Combine that with the discovery that there were no differences in outcomes between the "type" of massage and one may consider that massage, while usually pleasant, really has no significant value in the treatment of low back pain. This reminds me of the study where they compared "true" accupuncture to "sham" accupuncture where both groups marginally improved to pretty much the same degree.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Tony

    I'm gonna jump in here and echo Wm. Farrell. I got a lot of relief from ROLFing, which is a deep tissue technique. Like it's been said before, this is only for people with muscle/facia related back pain, not for people with bone and disk ailments.

    Worked wonders for me. It's no picnic, it's intense and be painful during and the day after, but you can feel the results in flexibility in just one session.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Vern LMT

    I work on sports injury issues and you might be surprised to know that some times it is the deep abdominal muscles causing low back pain, especially with cycling and over worked core muscles

    July 5, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mountaindawg

      Exactly. Thank you. I always suggest abdominal work for my clients with low back pain. With our sedentary lifestyle, the abs get short, preventing you from standing "straight". If you have a forward lean, all the pressure goes straight to the low back and these muscles become overworked and strained. Although it's not very pleasant, some good psoas work will do wonders for LBP.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
  33. TheLeftCoast

    I'm a massage therapist, and *good* massage therapy loosens up the muscles that hold the vertebrae in place, so they can properly align themselves. Several of my clients' lumbar vertebrae 'pop' back into place every week when I work on them.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Maria

    I've suffered from lower back pain and headaches (with occasional migraines) for as long as I can remember. The best things for it are: massages, chiropractic, and yoga. However, I still have back pain. My breasts are way too large, but insurance will only pay for a reduction if I remove them completely (it also means I can't exercise properly or get into certain yoga positions regardless of how flexible I am). I'm saving up so I can afford a reduction to 1/2 my size in the next year. Thanks for helping me out, insurance company! (at least they pay for 22 chiro visits a year)

    July 5, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Daniel

    This may be helpful to you.


    July 5, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RJM

    I am a part-time massage therapist and also suffer low back pain. After an accident severla years ago, my doctor only wanted to give me pain meds that only mask the problem and can cause minor to severe side effects. I then switched to chiropratic and massage therapy along with some physical therapy. Massage therapy is a great tool to help reduce low back pain, assuming that it is not caused by an injury to the spine/discs. We were taught several massage techniques that focus on trigger point therapy and it can help reduce pain and increase range of motion. Clients, however, need to know that it may take more than one session to begin to feel results and that they must also exercise and stretch to get even more added benefit and relief. A majority of low back pain is caused by being over weight and strengthening the core muscles (abdominals) can help dramatically.

    July 5, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Matt Watkins

    Massage is always going to be a big help, from my experience is Therapy Massage (Structural Massage), will always trump relaxing. Therapy Massage is all about correcting the posture. Once the posture is re-aligned then everything else will follow in place. Some people do just need to relax, everyone does, but others just need healing and there for recommend Therapy Massage before anything else.

    July 5, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Reilleyfam

    My condition is inflammation and heat and massage are the worst for that – making my condition worse for years until I tried cold compress (ice packs) and anti inflammatories (Iburprofin or naproxin). The cause of the pain determines what is the correct treatment.

    July 5, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Susie Smith


    July 5, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. David

    @Reilleyfam For me, naproxen caused sudden weight gain, which can't be helpful for back pain.

    I've been doing the PT thing, but I have also been taking capsaicin (Cayenne Pepper supplements) for my L1-L2 problems. It seems to have made the pain diminish quite a bit, and is a lot cheaper than steroids and prescription anti-inflammatories.

    While cayenne pepper supplements may not help your specific problems, there's probably very little possibility that it would hurt either.

    Works For Me(tm)

    July 5, 2011 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. sanjosemike

    I think what the researchers failed to note should have been obvious to them: Massage is just another form of physical therapy. This is not a complaint and not intended to demean PT.

    Many people go on to take dangerous drugs, expecting relief and only get seriously addicted to them. In the mean time, after a period of time, patients who get extensive physical therapy, including massage don't run that addiction risk.

    Those non-medicated patients may have more pain on the short run, but are clearly better off than the addicted patients.

    Massage is a part of this, and should remain so.


    July 5, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Katie

    There is a reason some small women in the world, who are the same species as all the rest of us, are able to successfully carry enormously heavy loads on their heads without developing pain problems. This is because they have not lost the original skeletal alignment that all healthy babies discover when learning how to stand and walk. I practiced yoga for over 25 years and taught yoga for 15+ years before I learned this information. I eventually gave up stretching altogether to finally find relief from years of chronic pain. This is destined to change everything we know about back pain! Here's a link to a very visual explanation of what this is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oTfN5NDQWE More information also at NaturalPostureSolutions.com

    July 5, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. andrew

    okay. Every modality has its limits as to what it can or cannot do. It also depends on the clients problems. One shoe doesn't fit all.
    In my experience:
    TCM may work but has its limitations,
    Rolfing works. Painful and expensive but it works. Ida had it right.
    Chiropractic works but has it limits.
    Massage done properly is wonderful. There are so many different styles to choose from.
    This article was poorly written in that it used the term massage in a generic capacity. Gupta?
    Ann J. Curley – CNN Medical Assignment Manager ? What do they really know about massage?
    However i am convinced Pilates on the REFORMER done "correctly" is a "combination" of all the above. Yet it also has its limits.
    In reality, they all have their place.

    Personal fitness trainer
    Rehabilitative exercise specialiat
    Pilates instructor

    July 5, 2011 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. amber

    I'm glad to see there is finally a study conducted on the potential benefits of massage therapy, however there are many issues with the research. first, when we discuss structural vs. relaxation therapy, we are fundementally discussing the nervous system. sleep, hydration, nutrition and excercise all effect the bodies ability to heal and recover from a deep tissue treatment. if the research doesn't control daily habits, it throws the findings. secondly, not knowing the source of low back pain is ridiculous. if they want to conduct a legitimate study, narrow the source of lbp to something specific and ensure the test subjects sleep regularly and drink half their body weight in ounces to stay fully hydrated. create a more controlled environment. the findings will be more accurate. this study was a good start, but a joke non-the-less.

    July 6, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Barbara

    Dr Gupta spoke about Doctors getting "gifts" from pharmacutical companies.Where do I find this article?

    July 6, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Irene Diamond, RT~ Therapist & Educator

    Great to see this report – as always, the more science behind manual therapy – the better.

    The method I teach and provide my clients (Active Myofascial Therapy http://www.TheDiamondMethod.com ) has been extremely effective in permanently relieving and eliminating back and neck pain. It gets rid of it, because not only does AMT relax the tissue, it also addresses correcting the imbalances of weak to tight areas as well as correct peoples posture and positions during their sleep and daily activities.

    I am happy to personally answer any questions you may have. You may call me at my San Francisco wellness center, 415-921-1290.

    July 6, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. BackPainReason

    Back pain may causes by various reasons. Many of us who have been suffering for back pain may have already tried various methods. You may fix your back pain in a simple, step-by-step program.


    July 6, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mike

    I have suffered from chronic back pain since 2000. I have multiple degenerative, bulging and herniated disks in my back from the base of my neck to the top of my buttocks. My spinal conditions are a result of parachute landings and the demanding life of the Airborne Infantry. I have tried several chiropractors, physical therapy, stretching, light weight training and traction over the past decade. The adjustments and traction helped with the numbness in my extremities, but nothing (other than narcotics) really relieved the pain. My wife pressed out a few knots in my back last year. I guess that could be considered massage. She is not a professional therapist. But, her manipulation probably prevented me from finally having back surgery.

    July 7, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Ansh

    I would recommend to try out some massage chair like RelaxStation Massage Chair.

    July 8, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Edward

    The use of prescription painkillers is being used very commonly these days for treating pains. These drugs are a blend of Acetaminophen and other components that are akin to morphine. These drugs are to be obtained under a prescription and to be used for a short duration of time only as they carry the danger of obsession and has a tendency of becoming a habit.

    Edward Simpson
    Findrxonline blog

    July 8, 2011 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.