Massage May Be Better Than Meds For Relieving Back Pain

Massage May Be Better Than Meds For Relieving Back Pain

Lower back pain is one of the most common health complaints (exacerbated, no doubt, by sitting in office chairs for hours on end). A recent study suggests massage therapy may provide pain relief and improve functioning even more than medication can.Photo: Shutterstock

The study showed modest improvements for adults who received either weekly whole-body massages for relaxation or more focused massages that treated specific muscle problems compared to a third group of adults who received over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.

For some of the patients, though, massage made a big difference in treating their lower back pain:

At the end of the 10-week intervention, 36% and 39% of patients in the massage groups said their pain was nearly or completely gone, compared to 4% in the usual care group.

While researchers are not saying massage is a cure or even a slam dunk for back pain, it is definitely a useful treatment option that can help patients improve and perhaps ease out of the pain-inactivity cycle. So if back pain is bothering you, that’s just one more reason to treat yourself to a (cheap) massage.

Study: Massage Helps Treat Low Back Pain [WebMD]


  • Anti-inflammatories like Paracetemol or Ibuprofen do nothing for me. Opiates like Tramadol or Oxycodone give effective temporary relief but they’re prescription and I have to avoid using them habitually.

    A proper massage gives about a weeks relief.

    • Paracetamol is not an anti-inflammatory medication. It has analgesic and anti-pyretic (for fevers) function only.

      Another option, if you can’t wait for a massage, is to use a tennis-ball – roll it around between the sore spot(s) on your back and a wall (or alternatively, the back of your office-chair). You get to control the amount of pressure 🙂

  • Foam roller (soft tissue massage) is a great way to work out knots and such without spending money on a masseuse. Worth checking out, plus it’s great for your posture.

  • “But Chou, and others, including the study’s researchers, say exercise is likely to offer far greater benefits than massage for people who’ve been struggling with back pain for a long time, and they stress that people shouldn’t assume that massage alone will banish low back pain for good.”

    Plus this is only for chronic back pain. Acute back pain mostly settles by itself, and has a lower rate of recurrence if you’re taught appropriate exercises (84% vs. 30% at 12 months – MacDonald et al., 2009). So go to the physio if you have back pain. 🙂

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