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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Sherman 2009.

Massage roughly twice as effective for neck pain as an educational booklet

updated
Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Hawkes RJ, Miglioretti DL, Deyo RA. Randomized trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain. Clinical Journal of Pain. 2009 Apr;25(3):233–8. PubMed #19333174.
Tags: neck, good news, massage, muscle pain, head/neck, spine, manual therapy, treatment, muscle, pain problems

PainSci summary of Sherman 2009?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

This small (64 subjects) test of massage therapy for neck pain showed that massage was roughly twice as effective as an educational booklet. The difference was greatest at four weeks, so the benefits were short term, but long enough to be potentially worthwhile. Even at 26 weeks, those who received massage were still somewhat more functional. The author’s concluded: “This study suggests that massage is safe and may have clinical benefits for treating chronic neck pain at least in the short term.”

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVES: Little is known about the effectiveness of therapeutic massage, one of the most popular complementary medical treatments for neck pain. A randomized controlled trial was conducted to evaluate whether therapeutic massage is more beneficial than a self-care book for patients with chronic neck pain.

METHODS: Sixty-four such patients were randomized to receive up to 10 massages over 10 weeks or a self-care book. Follow-up telephone interviews after 4, 10, and 26 weeks assessed outcomes including dysfunction and symptoms. Log-binomial regression was used to assess whether there were differences in the percentages of participants with clinically meaningful improvements in dysfunction and symptoms (ie,>5-point improvement on the Neck Disability Index;>30% improvement from baseline on the symptom bothersomeness scale) at each time point.

RESULTS: At 10 weeks, more participants randomized to massage experienced clinically significant improvement on the Neck Disability Index [39% vs. 14% of book group; relative risk (RR)=2.7; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.99-7.5] and on the symptom bothersomeness scale (55% vs. 25% of book group; RR=2.2; 95% CI, 1.04-4.2). After 26 weeks, massage group members tended to be more likely to report improved function (RR=1.8; 95% CI, 0.97-3.5), but not symptom bothersomeness (RR=1.1; 95% CI, 0.6-2.0). Mean differences between groups were strongest at 4 weeks and not evident by 26 weeks. No serious adverse experiences were reported.

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that massage is safe and may have clinical benefits for treating chronic neck pain at least in the short term. A larger trial is warranted to confirm these results.

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