In a similar study, researchers have found that real-world massage therapy is an effective way to treat chronic lower back pain.
Niki munk, an assistant professor of health sciences at purdue university's Indianapolis school of health and rehabilitation sciences, said the results were important given the large population. Who suffers from back pain in the United States
Low back pain causes all disorders over the years in the United States, most patients lose disability rapidly increasing, but one-third report persistent back pain, and 15% develop chronic low back pain with significant physical limitations.
According to munk, more than 50 percent of the people in the study experienced clinically meaningful improvements in lower back pain and disability.
"This study could give primary care providers the confidence to tell patients with chronic low back pain to try massage if they have the ability to do so, "munk said. Generally speaking, massage does not cover insurance, medicaid or medicare.
Previous studies on the effectiveness of massage have been conducted in controlled studies. In the study, patients were referred by doctors to massage therapists. Massage therapists designed and provided a series of 10 massages in a clinical therapeutic environment – free for patients – to mimic the experience of people who choose to seek massage therapy in the real world.
The study also looked at different characteristics associated with patients that are more or less likely to experience clinically meaningful changes in massage. Among the findings:
Baby boomers and older adults tend to be more likely to experience clinically meaningful changes.
Obese patients experienced significant improvements, but these improvements did not persist over time.
Patients who took opioids had improved disability pain in some cases, but were twice as likely to have clinically meaningful changes compared to patients who did not take opioids.
While the results are promising, more work needs to be done, munk said: "the fact is that chronic low back pain is very complex and often requires a maintenance approach rather than a short-term intervention."
Further investigation is needed to replicate the results of the initial study and to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of massage therapy, munk said.
"Massage is an out-of-pocket expense," she said. Generally, people want to know if it is worth it. Does giving people a massage for a long time help? Does it help avoid back surgery, for example, that may or may not produce good results? These are the conclusions we hope to draw from this study."
The study, "actual massage therapy produces meaningful signals of effectiveness for primary care patients with chronic lower back pain: results from a repeat measurement cohort study," was published online March 14 in the journal pain medicine.
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