Massage Therapy and Lower Back Pain

According to, low back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to visit a doctor in the United States. It is also very difficult to treat. There are studies which show that very few medical therapies reliably relieve lower back pain and some can even aggravate the problem. These treatments include medications, injections and surgeries. There are also studies that show that massage therapy has assisted many in relieving lower back pain.1

The reasons for back pain and the affects of treatment are as varied as the people having the trouble. Some of the causes of lower back pain range from not stretching enough before any form of strenuous movements, poor posture, improper positioning during sleeping or siting for long hours. Treatments for lower back pain range from ice and/or heat to major surgery. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, it is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Lower back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States — the most common is headache. Fortunately, most occurrences of low back pain go away within a few days. Others take much longer to resolve or lead to more serious conditions.” 2

A compilation of information of selected studies, utilizing specific criteria to assess for bias showed that massage might be beneficial in the case that the back pain is sub-acute, chronic and non-specific. The benefits increase with exercise and education. 3 As is almost always true in the case of holistic approaches, one type of treatment helps, but grouping that with exercise, good nutrition, and other treatments like acupuncture, increases the likelihood of improvement. The idea behind this is that lifestyle must also change for true improvement to last. Healthy Living

A person drawing a Healthy Living illustration with chalk on a blackboard.A study highlighted on, where 400 adults with moderate to severe low back pain that lasted for three or more weeks were assigned either whole-body massages focusing on relaxation, on a weekly basis, specific muscle massages on a weekly basis or usual care.4

The usual care group were monitored by researchers, but dealt with their pain on their own, which included medication, chiropractic, physical therapy or doing nothing.

In 10 weeks, the results of both massage groups were better than the usual care group. Daily function improved from 2 to 4 points on a 23 point scale. On a 10 point scale, average pain improved by 2 points. These results are better than the benefit of taking over the counter medications. 36% and 39% in the massage groups said their pain was nearly or completely gone, only 4% made the same claims in the usual care group.

These studies show great promise for massage therapy, as a beneficial addition to the holistic treatment of chronic lower back pain.

Foot Notes:


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