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Back Massage

Massage therapy recommended by doctors for chronic back pain

A growing number of scientific studies suggest that massage therapy can provide meaningful relief for chronic lower back pain, which afflicts more than 26 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

And adults over 50 are the most likely to benefit from regular back massage, according to groundbreaking research at the University of Kentucky, published in the journal Pain Medicine.

Researchers followed 104 patients who had consulted their primary care providers about back pain lasting three months or more, defined as chronic. More than half reported significantly less pain after 10 one-hour massage therapy sessions — rising to 70 percent among those 50 or older. Most still showed improvement six months later.

Many doctors have traditionally prescribed opioids, which can be highly addictive, for persistent back pain. But rising concerns about the current epidemic of opioid addiction have encouraged a search for safe, effective alternatives, including massage.

The American College of Physicians, which represents primary-care doctors, recently revised its clinical guidelines to recommend non-drug treatments such as massage, spinal manipulation and acupuncture as the first response to persistent lower back pain.

Orthopedic surgeons are also “very focused” on properly controlling pain prescriptions, says Dr. Alan Hilibrand, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and professor of orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He sees “significant short-term benefit” in massage for chronic back pain.

Massageforhealthyaging

Massage for healthy aging

A growing population of aging adults receive massage therapy as part of their integrated care to temper aches and pains, tackle chronic pain and aid in long-term care. Studies continue to show that aging and elderly individuals benefit greatly from massage therapy.

Regularly receiving massage has been shown to promote relaxation and stability while helping temper the effects of dementia, high-blood pressure and osteoarthritis. By incorporating massage into a regular healthcare regimen, many older adults find a better quality of life and additional relief from a multitude of health issues.

“The aging of both the silent and boomer generations call for an increased focus on improving and prolonging quality of life in this population,” said Nancy M. Porambo, President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). “While integrating massage therapy into a health and wellness plan is useful for all ages, it holds particular value in the growing elder population.”

Chronic pain is generally underreported in the elderly population due to a fear of stigma and assumption that it is an unavoidable part of aging. This highly treatable issue is not being seen as a health ailment, though it has been shown to severely impact lifestyle through disruption of sleep, daily routines and social activities. Incorporation of massage therapy into care routines has been demonstrated to help treat chronic pain, particularly in joints, such as the shoulder or knee, while also improving stability and posture.

“[This study] suggests that regular massage may produce physiological changes that contribute to improved balance and postural control,” says Jo Ellen Sefton, Director of the Neuromechanics Research Laboratory at Auburn University. “This may be a way to decrease falls in older adults.”

Research Roundup: Aging + Massage
by American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)