Special Report: Massage Works

A new report verifies massage as a quick, effective and inexpensive solution for low back pain, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine (2001, vol. 161, no. 8). Each of 262 participants, ages 20 to 70, had sought medical assistance for back pain they rated four or more on a scale of zero to 10. Most used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication and had suffered for the past year. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture, self-care education (books and videos) or massage therapies, including Swedish, deep tissue, trigger point, and movement re-education techniques (but Reiki, acupressure, shiatsu, craniosacral and Rolfing treatments were excluded).

The results? At 10 weeks, those receiving massage therapy showed much less dysfunction than the acupuncture and self-care groups, reporting less time in bed and less restricted activity. Over the following year, the massage group demonstrated lower medication use and fewer doctor visits. Interestingly, at the conclusion of one year of treatments, all three groups showed similar improvement, prompting researchers to suggest that acupuncture and self-help are also effective long-term treatments.

—Marilyn Sterling