Nobuku Anderson experienced back pain on and off throughout her life. She kept the pain at bay for years with regular exercise, sporadic massage, and trips to the chiropractor, but found no permanent solution. Anderson is one of the 400 members of Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative whose persistent back pain was included in a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The findings suggest that massage therapy provided greater relief of back pain when compared to conventional approaches alone. Massage recipients spent fewer days in bed, were more active, and took fewer medications. Research suggests massage stimulates injured tissue, and calms the central nervous system.

Anderson was paired with a physical therapist, who in 2008 suggested she join the clinical trial conducted by the Group Health Research Institute. She would continue regular treatment with an added bonus: a weekly, hourlong massage.

The 10-week trial was for those with chronic back pain that had no identifiable cause. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: pressure-point massage, relaxation massage, or usual care. Both pressure-point massage, and relaxation massage were found to be equally effective.

At 10 weeks, more than one in three patients who received massages said their back pain had lessened or ceased. By comparison, one in 25 patients who got usual care reported improvements.

"For people who’ve tried more conventional treatment with no results, massage is a reasonable thing to try," said Daniel Cherkin, leader of the study, investigator at Group Health Research Institute.

[Source: The Seattle Times]