Why You Should Turn to Massage Therapy for Pain Management
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. You might be wondering how to treat your pain, and massage therapy is one option that is showing promise.
Research continues to support the health benefits of massage therapy for pain management. Find out how massage therapy can help these five painful conditions.
1. Low-back Pain – Back pain is a common neurological ailment in the U.S. Research shows that massage therapy can help decrease pain, reduce disability and lower anxiety/depression in low-back pain sufferers.
2. Fibromyalgia – Studies indicate massage therapy can be a beneficial part of an integrative treatment plan for those with fibromyalgia syndrome by reducing pain, improving quality of life and decreasing anxiety, stiffness, fatigue and more.
3. Post-operative Pain – Post-operative pain can complicate recovery, lengthen hospital stays and interfere with a patient’s return to activities. Recent research indicates massage therapy can be effective for reducing pain intensity/severity and anxiety in patients undergoing surgical procedures.
4. Tension Headaches – According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, tension-type headache is the most common type of headache. Research has shown massage therapy can decrease perceived pain, frequency, duration and intensity for those dealing with tension headaches.
5. Arthritis – Research indicates that sixty minute sessions of Swedish massage once a week for those with osteoarthritis of the knee significantly reduced their pain. In addition, research shows that massage therapy can decrease pain and significantly impact some rheumatoid arthritis patient’s ability to control the mobility of their limbs.
New Research Analysis Indicates Massage Therapy Strongly Recommended for Pain Management
Based on the evidence, massage therapy can provide significant improvement for pain, anxiety and health-related quality of life for those looking to manage their pain.
This is the conclusion of a collaborative meta-analysis of research on massage therapy for pain conducted by the Samueli Institute and commissioned by the Massage Therapy Foundation, with support from the American Massage Therapy Association. The first part of the three-part review and analysis has been published online by the journal Pain Medicine.
Pain is a major public health concern, affecting approximately 100 million Americans.1 It is currently recognized as the most compelling reason for an individual to seek medical attention, and accounts for approximately 80 percent of physician visits.2,3
Not only are individuals affected, but also their families, the national economy and health systems. It is estimated that chronic pain accounts for approximately $600 billion in annual health care expenditures and lost productivity.3,4 This annual cost is greater than the cost of other national priority health conditions, highlighting the significant economic burden of pain.
Research Supports Massage Therapy for Pain Management
Based on the evidence, massage therapy, compared to no treatment, should be strongly recommended as a pain management option. Massage therapy is conditionally recommended for reducing pain, compared to other sham or active comparators, and improving mood and health-related quality of life, compared to other active comparators.5
Pain is multi-dimensional and may be better addressed through an integrative approach. Massage therapy is commonly used among people seeking pain management and research has generally supported its use. But, until now there has been no published, rigorous review of the available research and evidence for its efficacy for people with various types of pain.
The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population
Pain is multi-dimensional and may be better addressed through a holistic, biopsychosocial approach. Massage therapy is commonly practiced among patients seeking pain management; however, its efficacy is unclear. This systematic review and meta-analysis is the first to rigorously assess the quality of massage therapy research and evidence for its efficacy in treating pain, function-related and health-related quality of life outcomes across all pain populations.Methods
Key databases were searched from inception through February 2014. Eligible randomized controlled trials were assessed for methodological quality using SIGN 50 Checklist. Meta-analysis was applied at the outcome level. A diverse steering committee interpreted the results to develop recommendations.Results
Sixty high quality and seven low quality studies were included in the review. Results demonstrate massage therapy effectively treats pain compared to sham [standardized mean difference (SMD) = −.44], no treatment (SMD = −1.14), and active (SMD = −0.26) comparators. Compared to active comparators, massage therapy was also beneficial for treating anxiety (SMD = −0.57) and health-related quality of life (SMD = 0.14).Conclusion
Based on the evidence, massage therapy, compared to no treatment, should be strongly recommended as a pain management option. Massage therapy is weakly recommended for reducing pain, compared to other sham or active comparators, and improving mood and health-related quality of life, compared to other active comparators. Massage therapy safety, research challenges, how to address identified research gaps, and necessary next steps for implementing massage therapy as a viable pain management option are discussed.
Therapeutic massage for pain relief
Massage used to be considered an indulgence, but it’s now recognized as a legitimate therapy for some painful conditions.
Published: July, 2016
Therapeutic massage may relieve pain by way of several mechanisms, including relaxing painful muscles, tendons, and joints; relieving stress and anxiety; and possibly helping to “close the pain gate” by stimulating competing nerve fibers and impeding pain messages to and from the brain.
Therapeutic massage is an active area of research. In particular, it has been studied for its effect on pain in the back, hands, neck, and knees, among other areas. A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice showed a reduction in hand pain and an improvement in grip strength among people who had four weekly hand massage sessions and did self-massage at home. They also slept better and had less anxiety and depression than people in the control group who didn’t receive hand massage.
A study published in Annals of Family Medicine in 2014 found that 60-minute therapeutic massage sessions two or three times a week for four weeks relieved chronic neck pain better than no massage or fewer or shorter massage sessions.
Massage therapy can involve varying degrees of pressure. Some people find certain forms of massage, such as deep tissue massage, to be painful. Massage doesn’t have to be painful to be therapeutic, so be sure to tell your therapist the type of touch you prefer (light touch, firm pressure, hard pressure). Lighter may be more relaxing and therefore more beneficial, depending on your situation. People with certain pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome may only be able to tolerate light pressure.
There are no data to suggest that massage is harmful, but there are some specific situations where it is not recommended: massaging an inflamed area of skin, for example, can make it worse by causing irritation. One should not have massage to an area of infection, as it might spread the infection. The American Massage Therapy Association lists heart problems, infectious disease, phlebitis, and some skin conditions as reasons to avoid massage. Choose a licensed therapist; your PT may be able to make a recommendation.
Chronic Pain Relief with Alternative Pain Management
While some view massage therapy simply as a luxurious form of relaxation, others find it to be a crucial form of chronic pain relief. Texas Pain Relief Group is pleased to offer massage therapy as an alternative pain management option at our Dallas-Fort Worth area treatment centers.
Many do not realize that a massage is an ideal method of alternative pain management, especially when compared to taking strong prescription painkillers that could have serious side effects. Massage and spinal cord stimulation used for therapeutic purposes both offer numerous benefits, including:
What is Alternative Pain Management?
Alternative pain management can be defined as a medical treatment, therapy, or intervention that exists outside the realm of conventional medical practices. Some popular examples of alternative therapies and non-pharmacological treatments include:
- Improved Blood Circulation: Patients with poor blood circulation can suffer from chronically cold hands and feet, general aches and pains, and persistent fatigue due to lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles. During a massage, the pressure exerted by the therapist breaks through the build-up of lactic acid and improve blood flow throughout the body, resulting in reduced pain and heightened comfort
- Joint Pain Management: Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other types of chronic medical conditions can cause painful swelling of the joints. Regular massage therapy for pain relief helps to reduce muscle spasms caused by joint pain. Additionally, it assists in improving the body’s natural ability to produce endorphins, which assist in the body’s natural process of reducing pain.
- Lowered Blood Pressure: A number of factors can cause high blood pressure, including obesity, a health condition, and a stressful environment. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, trigger point massage therapy can significantly decrease heart rate, diastolic blood pressure, and systolic blood pressure.
- Muscle Pain Relief: Spinal cord stimulation and other types of deep massage help to work the tension out of sore muscles. The pressure causes the muscles to relax, which may prevent the recurrence of muscle pain and tension in the future. Patients with chronic lower back pain, neck and shoulder tension, and knee pain can benefit from regular massage.
- Stress Reduction: Many patients carry the tension that is caused by stress within their upper back and neck. Because massage promotes relaxation, it is an excellent technique to reduce ongoing patient stress. Regular massage therapy allows people to feel calmer and respond better to the stress in their lives without tension or chronic pain. In addition to maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle, massage therapy is an excellent form of stress management, allowing patients to reduce the long-term effects of daily stress.
Other Good Pain Management Links:
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.