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Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Massage Therapy

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Along with herbal treatment, touch-based therapy is undoubtedly one of the most ancient forms of medical care. We instinctively stroke and rub areas of our body that hurt; massage therapy develops this instinct into a professional treatment. There is no doubt that massage relieves pain and induces relaxation at least temporarily; besides that, it feels good!

Effect of Massage Therapy on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Although the evidence is far from complete, it does appear that massage may offer benefits for low back pain.3 However, these benefits may last for only a short amount of time.

There are many theories about how massage might work. Little doubt exists that massage temporarily increases blood circulation in the massaged area, but it is not clear whether or not this makes any lasting difference. Some massage therapists and massage therapy schools promote the notion that massage breaks up calcium deposits in the muscle, but there is no objective substantiation for this claim. A completely different explanation is that massage promotes healing in a more general way, by reducing stress and inducing relaxation. Massage also satisfies the basic human need to be touched.

Regardless, if receiving massage therapy helps to mitigate some of the symptoms of low back pain and sciatica, it can be an extremely useful treatment for these conditions.

Read more details about Massage Therapy.

Research Evidence on Massage Therapy

One study compared massage to fake laser therapy in 107 people with low-back pain. The results indicate that massage is more effective than fake laser therapy for relieving low back pain, and that massage therapy combined with exercise and posture training is even more effective.4

Another study compared acupuncture, massage, and self-care education in 262 people with persistent back pain.5 By the end of the 10-week treatment period, massage had shown itself more effective than self-care (or acupuncture). However, at a 1-year follow-up, there was no difference in symptoms between the massage group and the self-care group.

In another study, acupressure-style massage was more effective than Swedish massage for the treatment of low back pain.6

In a review of 13 randomized trials, researchers concluded that massage may be effective for nonspecific low back pain, and the beneficial effects can last for up to 1 year in patients suffering from chronic pain.48 They also noted that exercise and education appear to enhance the effectiveness of massage.

In a review of 13 randomized trials, researchers concluded that massage may be effective for nonspecific low back pain, and the beneficial effects can last for up to 1 year in patients suffering from chronic pain.77 They also noted that exercise and education appear to enhance the effectiveness of massage. See the article on Massage for more details.

Safety Issues

Massage is generally safe. 1 However, it can sometimes exacerbate pain temporarily, even when properly performed. In addition, if massage is performed too forcefully on fragile people, bone fractures and other internal injuries are possible. However, licensed massage therapists have been trained in ways to avoid causing these problems. Machines designed to perform elements of massage may be less safe. 2

References

  1. Ernst E. The safety of massage therapy. Rheumatology (Oxford). 42(9):1101-6.
  2. Eliott MA, Taylor LP. Shiatsu sympathectomy: ICA dissection associated with a shiatsu massager. Neurology. 2002;58:1302-1304.
  1. Furlan AD, Brosseau L, Imamura M, et al. Massage for low-back pain: a systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration Back Review Group. Spine. 2002;27:1896-1910.
  1. Preyde M. Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low-back pain: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2000;162:1815-1820.
  1. Cherkin DC, Eisenberg D, Sherman KJ, et al. Randomized trial comparing traditional Chinese medical acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and self-care education for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:1081-1088.
  1. Franke A, Gebauer S, Franke K, et al. Acupuncture massage vs Swedish massage and individual exercise vs group exercise in low back pain sufferers—a randomized controlled clinical trial in a 2 x 2 factorial design [in German; English abstract]. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2000;7:286-293.
  1. Furlan AD, Imamura M, Dryden T, Irvin E. Massage for low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;CD001929.
  1. Furlan AD, Imamura M, Dryden T, Irvin E. Massage for low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;CD001929.

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2 Comments

Posted 6 years ago

Try going to http://www.artisanhealing.com if you are looking for massage therapy in Sherman Oaks.

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Posted 6 years ago

I recommend going to see a chiropractor if you have lower back pain and make sure you are stretching. Going to a massage therapist like beansymarks88 said is a good idea too. You could look into a chiropractic massage as well. I recommend Active Body Chiro-Care if you need a Santa Monica chiropractor. You can find all their locations at http://activebodychirocare.com/customcontent/c33586contactus.html

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