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Everyone loves a good rub down—when someone (who knows what they are doing) puts their hands on your sore and aching muscles and gives you a great massage, no other feeling can match the bliss.
Massage therapists have been working on injured athletes and rundown weekend warriors alike for years, but a recent study from Indiana University that was just published in Pain Medicine tested if massage can combat persistent lower back pain. Researchers provided over 70 low-back pain patients—who were referred by their doctor to a massage therapist—with 10 sessions and then assessed them at 12 weeks and 24 weeks.
About 49% of the subjects were classified as “clinically improved” at 12 weeks for bodily pain, and that dropped to only 40% at 24 weeks. Over 55% felt better physically at 12 weeks, which evened out to 46% at 24 weeks, and around 43% had a better mental outlook at 12 weeks with that percentage moving to 30% at 24 weeks.
“Chronic lower back pain is very complex and often requires a maintenance-type approach versus a short-term intervention option,” said co-author Niki Munk, Ph.D., L.M.T., an assistant professor of health sciences in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “The study can give primary care providers the confidence to tell patients with chronic low-back pain to try massage, if the patients can afford to do so.”
Massage is unfortunately not covered by insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, so the more studies that show it can provide benefits, the more likely it can make it on the list of approved—and delightful—therapies in the future.