A Pain in the Neck

Massage:

A pain in the neck ?

Massage can relieve neck pain if it’s done often by professional therapist and for the correct length of time, according to new research. One-hour session two or three times a week appear to be best, said scientific investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. Her study, which tested the effect of a month of massage, is published in the March/April issues of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Persistent neck pain is common and stems from numerous causes – car accident, sleeping in awkward positions or appending hours hunched over a computer, among them, Sherman said. Doctors often recommend anti-inflammatory medicines, but these drugs frequently don’t provide enough relief, she noted. “People with back and neck pain aren’t usually satisfied with what they get from their doctor, so they are looking around for something that works”, Sherman explained.

Previous studies of massage for neck pain have produces conflicting results, so Sherman’s team decided to look closer. Specifically, they wanted to determine what dose of massage is ideal. In a previous study, Sherman had found that benefits of massage were evident after four weeks.

For the new study, she randomly assigned 228 men and woman, aged 20 to 64, to one of six groups. These included 30- minutes massage two or three times weekly, one-hour massage one, two or three times, and a comparison group receiving no massage.

Assessing neck functioning and pain levels a week after treatment ended, the researchers determined that patients getting one hour of massage three times a week showed the most gains after four weeks of massage. Compared to those who got no massage, “people getting massage three times a week were almost five times as likely to have a clinically meaningful (meaning important or noticeable) improvement in function and over twice as likely to report a clinically meaningful decrease in pain, “Sherman said.

Many patients who get therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain may not reap benefits if they undergo shorter or less frequent sessions, the authors suggested.

Jeanette Ezzo, a massage therapist and researcher in Takoma Park, Md., called the study “an important contribution to understanding the massage dosage necessary to relieve neck pain.” Ezzo has published research on effectiveness of complementary medicine practices, including massage.

Dr. Fredrick Wilson, a spine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, stressed the need to use a professional massage therapist. If done incorrectly, [massage] can actually course muscle tightening and spasm,” he said. For neck or back pain, “it seems the training and experience make a difference in the amount of pain relief patients get,” he added.

Source: March 10, 2014, Annals of Family Medicine, published in the Embody magazine summer 2014 | www.ctha.com