Will A Massage Make You Feel Better?

At Better Body Solutions we regularly utilize therapeutic medical massage therapy along with chiropractic care and physical therapy to help patients obtain low back pain relief. A new study performed at Indiana University and published at sciencedaily.com shows that massage can an effective form of back pain relief.


From the Report:

“ Low back pain leads all disorders in years lost to disability in the U.S. Most patients improve rapidly, but one-third report persistent back pain, and 15 percent develop chronic low back pain with significant physical limitations. More than 50 percent of those who participated in the study experienced clinically meaningful improvements in their low back pain with disability, according to Munk.”

A 50% success rate is a coin flip, but compared to the success rate of some treatments, 50% is not bad. Medical studies are considered “significant”, which is considered a good thing, if even 35% of patients show improvement.

This isn’t the first time that massage has been shown to be helpful in treating pain. WebMD has a post that promotes massage as being helpful to treat a variety of disorders.

“ Few sensual experiences rival a full-body massage for pleasure and stress relief — at least among those things you can talk about in front of the children at the dinner table. Word on the health benefits of massage therapy for stress relief has spread. In 2006, 39 million Americans — one in six adults — had at least one massage, according to a nationwide survey by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

“Americans are looking to massage for much more than just relaxation,” says Mary Beth Braun, President of the AMTA. “Massage therapy can be effective for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, lower back pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, circulatory problems, and recovery from a sports injury.”

One of the factors that complicates assessing just how effective massage is and relieving pain or improving function is that there are a variety of massage techniques. At our office, we employ medical massage which orients the massage services toward correcting muscular imbalances that hinder function. Interestingly medical massage can be applied using various massage techniques like Sports Massage, Deep Tissue Massage or Swedish Massage for example.

It’s possible that some massage approaches are more effective for certain conditions and even if those techniques were elucidated, it’s still difficult to study how effective a technique might be due to the fact that massage therapists differ in their application of the technique.

While there are several studies that seek to show the effectiveness of massage, in our experience massage can also make a condition worse in the short term and for people with back pain, especially with muscle spasm, we recommend that patients receive massage therapy under the supervision of their doctor. Sometimes, muscles go into spasm to protect the spine for example, from undergoing more physical stress or damage.  This is referred to as “splinting.” An online dictionary explains splinting as, “ stiffening of a body part to avoid pain caused by movement of the part…”  It would be a bad thing indeed for a massage therapist to relax those stiffened muscles and undermine their protective function.

In summary, our clinical experience is that massage can be quite beneficial if it’s used appropriately.