By Sara Gonzalez
If you suffer from lower back pain, you’ll be glad to know that ordinary Swedish relaxation massage is just as effective for early relief in pain levels as the often-costlier specialized structural massage. That is the conclusion of a Seattle study in which people suffering from chronic non-specific lower back pain were treated with either structural or relaxation massage.
Gainesville, Florida, massage therapist Julie Burgevin comments, “I was deeply curious about which massage types are most effective for chronic low back pain. As a therapist, I’ve found that deeper, structural work was not always significant in creating pain relief, and that clients vary in their desire for deep or lighter work. I’ve also wondered if my clients’ belief that massage is ‘doing them good’ influences the level of pain relief they experience.”
The Seattle scientists assembled a study group of 401 people and divided them into three groups. One group received structural massage, one received relaxation massage, and the third control group received no special care.
Relaxation massage is normally comprised of Swedish massage techniques and is the most common type of massage in the U.S. Structural massage requires more training and uses a variety of soft-tissue techniques to identify muscle and skeletal problems causing the lower back pain.
The study participants were asked about their pain levels after 10 weeks of treatment. Followup questions were asked at 26 and 52 weeks. Pain levels at 10, 26 and 52 weeks were compared to pain levels recorded at the beginning of the study.
The scientists found no differences between relaxation and structural massage therapies but found that both provide relief from back pain more than usual care within the first year. At around a year, they discovered that all methods were about the same so that the back pain sufferers who received no special care had caught up with the patients who received massage care. This study is exciting news for back pain sufferers who are looking for early relief in pain levels.
Sara comments: “As someone with chronic back pain, knowing that ordinary relaxation massage helps back pain early on, and has about the same benefits as structural massage is important. It can be difficult to find a qualified structural massage and/or it may be more expensive to get such a specialized type of massage. While the usual care patients caught up at a year, I personally don’t want to wait that long to get some relief from my pain. Why wait when help can be found with regular massages?”
Adds Julie, “It appears from this study that massage, whether deep or lighter, DOES give relief during the body’s own course of healing. Our bodies are remarkable in how they can and will heal. Over the years, I’ve lightened my touch, I think, and work slowly into the tissue, combining gentle, non-invasive Ortho-Bionomy techniques that I’ve found are wonderful additions to the structural, Swedish, and other modalities in providing pain relief.”
Sources: Cherkin, D. C., Sherman, K. J., Kahn, J., Wellman, R., Cook, A. J., Johnson, E., Erro, J., et al. (2011). A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155(1), 1-9. Am Coll Physicians. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21727288