JOHN HOPKINS MEDICAL LETTER ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN AUGUST 2008
Nonspecific back pain (pain that isn’t from a condition or injury) can be frustratingly difficult to treat, but there are potential benefits to massage therapy. Message can relax tight muscles and may improve blood circulation to the body’s tissues, which can help reduce pain and inflammation. Massage also stimulates the release of hormones called endorphins may be why people often experience a heightened sense of well-being following a massage.
Sustained pain relief may require commitment: Studies on massage typically involve a course of therapy, not just massage. For instance, in a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, among 262 people with chronic back pain, patients who received one massage per week for 10 weeks reported less back pain up to one year after the study ended.
Combining different approaches may also improve your chances of success. A recent Cochrane review of 13 clinical trials that included over 1,500 participants with chronic back pain found that massage therapy was more effective at reducing pain and improving function when participants also incorporated stretching exercises and basis education about behaviors (like poor posture) that contribute to back pain.
Massage is safe, except for people with phlebitis (inflammation of a vein), deep vein thrombosis, advanced osteoporosis, bone fractures, skin infections, burns, or eczema. Find a licensed massage therapist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Message & Bodywork or the American Massage Therapy Association. Medicare and most private insurance do not cover massage.