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Massage and Back Pain
– Research Findings

There are many reasons why people book in for a mobile massage in Sydney with us. It can be purely to de-stress and wind down. It can be as a reward for working hard. It can be part of a sportsman training regime to include a regular sports massage. However, the majority of people that we see are suffering from physical discomfort and they are looking for remedial therapy to help them reduce the pain and tightness they are experiencing.

Massage for back pain reliefNeck /shoulder pain and headaches are probably the top of the list for the reason why people book in for a remedial massage and many people know that massage is a great way to deal with these problems. The next most popular reason for getting a remedial or deep tissue massage is for lower back pain and there is some good news that recent research has found that massage may very help is dealing with the pain and suffering that lower back pain can cause.

When suffering from lower back pain many people seek out medications from their doctor to treat the pain. Others try exercise regimes from physiotherapist. However, a significant proportion of experiencing and secondly as a form of preventative maintenance once they are relatively pain-free. Researchers set out to ascertain whether massage compared favourably against usual medical intervention for treating lower back pain.

In the study (1), carried out by researchers from the Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, the study participants were randomly assigned to receive either a relaxation massage, a structural (remedial/deep tissue) massage or usual medical care without massage. Their symptoms had been assessed and also recorded was the impact of the back pain on their daily life.

Those in the massage groups had a one hour session weekly for 10 weeks.

The symptoms of those in the study were recorded after completing the massage program, at six months and finally a year after they initially began the massage.

The results obtained were encouraging for the massage industry. After the 10 week assessment, the researchers found that those who had received massage had lower levels of pain and they were able to perform daily tasks better than those who had only received the usual medical care. These results were similar regardless of which type of massage they received, be it relaxation or structural.

Whilst the benefits did not remain after one year, there was still a significant difference with the results obtained after 6 months and so it may be reasonable to conclude that massage can be an effective treatment for those who are suffering from lower back pain.

(1) Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, Wellman R, Cook AJ, Johnson E, Erro J, Delaney K, Deyo RA. “A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial.” Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jul 5;155(1):1-9.

By Richard Lane

Sports Massage Does Work!

In recent years there seems to be have a move towards more evidence based practise for a range of practitioners. This is not a bad thing for the massage industry as many of the more spurious claims that are made can be challenged and dismissed. However, one of the problems that massage faces is that there is a dearth of quality research available.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case which include a lack of money when compared with the amount of funds available for pharmaceutical trials and also a fundamental problem with much of the research in the natural therapies domain in that designing standard treatment protocols is extremely difficult when most therapists’ practice is based on tailoring a treatment to an individual client’s needs at the time.

A 2012 study into the benefits of sports massage has attempted to redress the issue of quality massage research with findings that are encouraging for the industry.

Sports massage SydneyAfter a water skiing injury a researcher at McMaster University, Canada, Mark Tarnopolsky, found that massage therapy provided a significant amount of pain relief and he decided that he wanted to understand the underlying mechanism whereby massage aided his recovery.

Along with some colleagues, Tarnolpolsky decided to investigate why massage can reduce pain and the results (for massage therapists and for sports people) were encouraging (1).

For the study, 11 males were exercised to such an extent that they were affected by exercise-induced muscle damage after working out on an upright bicycle. One of their legs was then massaged for 10 minutes. The researchers took muscle biopsy samples from the participants’ vastus lateralis muscles at various times:
– at baseline
– immediately after the massage
– after 2.5 hours of recovery.

The results were extremely encouraging. There is strong support for the hypothesis that exercise can activate the genes which are associated with repair and inflammation and it was no surprise that the researchers observed there was significantly more indicators of cell repair and also inflammation in the biopsy samples post-exercise when compared with the pre-exercise measurements.

However, there was a clear distinction between the study participants’ legs that had been massaged and had not been.

They found that the legs which had received the 10 minutes of sports massage had:
– reduced the amount of exercise induced muscle inflammation by diminishing the activity of a protein, NF-kB
– increased by about 30% a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria, PGC-1
– modified levels of other proteins with similar roles in the body.

  
Although this is only one study and the massage protocol may not be relevant for all sports people, it does provide evidence supporting the use of massage therapy to reduce pain and encourage muscle repair. Further work would need to be carried out to assess the optimum pressure, length of massage and the commencement time after exercise.

But there are few who would argue that getting a massage to reduce pain from sport is a preferable alternative to anti-inflammatory medications.

(1) J. D. Crane, D. I Ogborn et al “Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signalling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage”. Science Translational Medicine 4, 119ra13 (2012).

By Richard Lane


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