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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, Sefton 2011.

Physiological and clinical changes after therapeutic massage of the neck and shoulders

Sefton JM, Yarar C, Carpenter DM, Berry JW. Physiological and clinical changes after therapeutic massage of the neck and shoulders. Man Ther. 2011 Oct;16(5):487–94. PubMed #21570335.
Tags: treatment, massage, neck, manual therapy, head/neck, spine

PainSci summary of Sefton 2011?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 at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for typical studies with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. 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 is a small science experiment comparing the effects of three short “therapeutic massages” of the neck to light touching and a neutral control group in just sixteen healthy adults. The purpose was not to find out if massage is an effective therapy — these were not neck pain patients — but whether or not it has some measurable physiological effects. Both massage and light touch reduced muscle activity a little more than 10%, which is a good number for such brief treatments. Massage alone reduced reflex sensitivity and increased range of motion. It’s unknown if these effects would occur in people with neck pain, but it’s certainly plausible.

~ 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.

Little is known regarding the physiological and clinical effects of therapeutic massage (TM) even though it is often prescribed for musculoskeletal complaints such as chronic neck pain. This study investigated the influence of a standardized clinical neck/shoulder TM intervention on physiological measures assessing α-motoneurone pool excitability, muscle activity; and the clinical measure of range of motion (ROM) compared to a light touch and control intervention. Flexor carpi radialis (FCR) α-motoneurone pool excitability (Hoffmann reflex), electromyography (EMG) signal amplitude of the upper trapezius during maximal muscle activity, and cervical ROM were used to assess possible physiological changes and clinical effects of TM. Sixteen healthy adults participated in three, 20 min interventions control (C), light touch (LT) and therapeutic massage (TM). Analysis of Covariance indicated a decrease in FCR α-motoneurone pool excitability after TM, compared to both the LT (p = 0.0003) or C (p = 0.0007) interventions. EMG signal amplitude decreased after TM by 13\% (p < 0.0001), when compared to the control, and 12% (p < 0.0001) as compared to LT intervention. The TM intervention produced increases in cervical ROM in all directions assessed: flexion (p < 0.0001), lateral flexion (p < 0.0001), extension (p < 0.0001), and rotation (p < 0.0001). TM of the neck/shoulders reduced the α-motoneurone pool excitability of the flexor carpi radialis after TM, but not after the LT or C interventions. Moreover, decreases in the normalized EMG amplitude during MVIC of the upper trapezius muscle; and increases in cervical ROM in all directions assessed occurred after TM, but not after the LT or C interventions.

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