Massage Feels Good When It's Being Done. Can It Provide Continued Pain Relief?

Dr. James Rathmell answers the question: 'Can Massage Provide Pain Relief?'

ByABC News
December 24, 2007, 9:56 AM

— -- Question: Massage Feels Good When It's Being Done, But Can It Provide Continued Pain Relief?

Answer: Well, we don't have a lot of scientific data on the use of massage particularly in the long term. There are a number of studies, particularly in low back pain, patients with chronic low back pain, that suggests that people who are getting massage during the course of receiving the massage feel better overall; their pain is lower, and their ability to function is a little better.

But there isn't a lot of long-term scientific data, so it's hard for me to say whether or not it's something that should be incorporated into everyone's care. On the other hand, if it helps, if it's very helpful, I encourage any of my patients that have pursued massage therapy to continue; and I have had many, many people who say that it's very beneficial.

Now, how does it work? We know even less about how it works. There are a lot of chronic pain conditions where there's secondary muscle spasm, and massage can make muscles that are in spasm feel much better. We don't know exactly why that happens; probably because there is increase in blood flow and decrease in muscle tension, but how that translates into pain relief and long-term pain relief, we just don't know.

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