Massage for low back pain.

Low-back pain is one of the most common and costly musculoskeletal problems in modern society. Proponents of massage therapy claim it can minimize pain and disability, and speed return to normal function.
To assess the effects of massage therapy for non-specific low-back pain.
We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, HealthSTAR, CINAHL and Dissertation abstracts from their beginning to May 2001 with no language restrictions. References in the included studies and in reviews of the literature were screened. Contact with content experts and massage associations was also made.
The studies had to be randomized or quasi-randomized trials investigating the use of any type of massage (using the hands or a mechanical device) as a treatment for non-specific low-back pain.
Two reviewers blinded to authors, journal and institutions selected the studies, assessed the methodological quality using the criteria recommended by the Cochrane Back Review Group, and extracted the data using standardized forms. The studies were analysed in a qualitative way due to heterogeneity of population, massage technique, comparison groups, timing and type of outcome measured.
Nine publications reporting on eight randomized trials were included. Three had low and five had high methodological quality scores. One study was published in German and the rest in English. Massage was compared to an inert treatment (sham laser) in one study that showed that massage was superior, especially if given in combination with exercises and education. In the other seven studies, massage was compared to different active treatments. They showed that massage was inferior to manipulation and TENS; massage was equal to corsets and exercises; and massage was superior to relaxation therapy, acupuncture and self-care education. The beneficial effects of massage in patients with chronic low-back pain lasted at least one year after the end of the treatment. One study comparing two different techniques of massage concluded in favour of acupuncture massage over classic (Swedish) massage.
Massage might be beneficial for patients with subacute and chronic non-specific low-back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education. The evidence suggest that acupuncture massage is more effective than classic massage, but this need confirmation. More studies are needed to confirm these conclusions and to assess the impact of massage on return-to-work, and to measure longer term effects to determine cost-effectiveness of massage as an intervention for low-back pain.
AuthorsA D Furlan, L Brosseau, M Imamura, E Irvin
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Cochrane Database Syst Rev) Issue 2 Pg. CD001929 ( 2002) ISSN: 1469-493X [Electronic] England
PMID12076429 (Publication Type: Journal Article, Review)
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain (therapy)
  • Manipulation, Spinal
  • Massage
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic

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