Group Health Logo Massages that are known to relieve people of stress appear to have another application too. A study conducted by Group Health Research institute has revealed that a massage therapy may help lower chronic back pain and enhance function as shown by a random trial. The study compares structural and relaxation massages to find that both the types seem to work well with fewer side effects.

The trial involved 400 Group Health Cooperative patients who suffered from low back pain for a minimum of three months. Apparently, the cause of the pain couldn’t be located. They were told to undergo one of three therapies namely the structural massage, relaxation massage, or usual care in a random basis. The massage treatment was given for an hour on a weekly basis up to 10 weeks.

“We found that massage helps people with back pain to function even after six months. Better function means they are more able to work, take care of themselves, and be active. This is important because chronic back pain is among the most common reasons people see doctors and alternative practitioners, including massage therapists. It’s also a common cause of disability, absenteeism, and ‘presenteeism,’ when people are at work but can’t perform well,” remarked trial leader Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute.

At the end of 10 weeks, more than one in three patients who were given either type of massage said their back pain appeared to have lessened or was entirely gone. On the other hand, only 1 in 25 reported that their pain reduced. It also came to fore, that two thirds of massage participants apparently showed improvement in their condition. Just one third of the usual care patients appeared to encounter a better outcome. Those in the massage group seemingly spent less number of days in bed, were more energetic and utilized less anti-inflammatory medicines unlike those with usual care.

However, the advantages of massage seem to fade with time. At the conclusion of 6 months, patients appeared to function properly, but after 1 year, the effect was all gone. Nevertheless, it came to light that the effect of a massage is as strong as reported for other kinds of exercises, yoga, and acupuncture. According to Dr Cherkin, massage is safe and individuals with ongoing back pain could consider it as an alternative.

Preliminary studies conducted trials to gauge the structural variations of massage. But relaxation or Swedish massage is a common form of massage and is also learned in schools. It seeks to evoke a rejenovated experience all over the body. On the contrary structural massages target particular soft tissues of the body.

The next steps of the study include comprehending whether structural and relaxation massages were equally advantageous for same or different causes.

The study is published in the July 5 Annals of Internal Medicine.