According to a US study, massage therapy helps people who suffer from chronic back pain, but the effects tend to disappear over the longer term. After 10 weeks, patients who got weekly massage sessions used fewer painkillers and spent less time in bed than those who didn’t get any special care, although the positive impact disappeared after a year.
Richard Deyo, a professor at the Oregon Health and Science University, who led the study, says, “If we look at patients who seemed to have some substantial improvement, that was about two-thirds in the massage group, compared to about one-third among patients getting usual care.” For the study, 401 people were randomly assigned to usual care or one of two kinds of massage therapy, either structural massage or relaxation massage, also known as Swedish massage.
After 10 weeks, the massage group had improved considerably compared to other patients. However, some of the apparent benefits of massage had vanished after six months and the gains were gone after a full year. The study concluded that, even though massages give short-tern alleviation, they cannot be depended on for long-term results.
Deyo said that the results of the latest study compare to what is seen with other kinds of treatment, although the cost-effectiveness is still unclear. He warned that patients in the study knew which kind of treatment they got, with some perhaps disappointed that they didn’t get massages — which may have affected the results.
In any case, lifestyle changes are often the best treatment. “Many of us believe that for truly chronic pain problems, exercise programs are actually one of the mainstay treatments that will help people function better on a daily basis,” Deyo added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2011.