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

PainSci » bibliography » Sherman et al 2009
Tags: neck, massage, muscle pain, good news, head/neck, spine, manual therapy, treatment, muscle, pain problems

One article on PainSci cites Sherman 2009: The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks

PainSci commentary on Sherman 2009: ?This page is one of thousands in the 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 wherever possible.

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 abstract Abstracts 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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