Therapeutic massage more effective than acupuncture or self-care education

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Source: News Fix, by April Clarkson
Date: 19th July 2013Researchers from the Group Health Cooperative, US, report the results of a study which found that therapeutic massage was more effective than other complementary therapies for persistent back pain, and apparently provides long-lasting benefits.The researchers randomised 262 patients with persistent lower back pain, aged between 20 and 70 years, to receive either acupuncture (n=94), therapeutic massage (n=78), or self-care educational materials (n=90). Up to 10 massage or acupuncture treatments were allowed over a 10-week period. Telephone interviewers scored patients for symptoms and disability after four, 10, and 52 weeks.

The researchers found:

  • At 10 weeks, massage was superior to self-care on both the symptom and disability scale
  • Massage was superior to acupuncture on the disability scale
  • After one year, massage was no better than self-care, but was better than acupuncture on both scales
  • The massage group used the least medications and had the lowest costs of subsequent care.

The authors noted that Traditional Chinese Medical acupuncture seemed relatively ineffective, and suggested that massage may be a useful alternative to conventional medicine in the treatment of persistent back pain.

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