Few treatments for back pain are supported by strong scientific evidence. Conventional treatments have limited success and often result in dissatisfied patients who turn to CAM.

A review from the Cochrane Collaboration concluded, “massage might be beneficial for patients with subacute and chronic non-specific low-back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education.”

Massage was inferior to manipulation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) (more on TENS here); equal to corsets and exercises; and better than relaxation therapy, acupuncture, and self-care education. The beneficial effects of massage in patients with chronic low-back pain lasted at least one year following treatment.

Another review of acupuncture, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation for nonspecific back pain concluded that massage was effective for persistent low back pain. In addition, “Preliminary evidence suggests that massage, but not acupuncture or spinal manipulation, may reduce the costs of care after an initial course of therapy.”

Need a massage therapist? Try this site. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork also maintains a directory. Be sure to read the directions before using this directory.

Caution: before visiting the massage therapist, have your back examined by a physician to be sure there are no underlying problems that should be treated medically or make massage a risky option.

7/23/06 12:44 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.