"Oh, my back still hurts," Jim groaned as he sat on the bed and bent over to pick up his shoe.
"Why don't you try a massage?" His wife asked. "My friend Carol swears massage is the only thing that can help her back pain."
Jim sighed as he tied his shoe. "I suppose I have tried everything else. The chiropractor says my back is fine, just the muscles are tight. My doctor gave me muscle relaxants, which I don't like to take, and our insurance only covered four physical therapy visits. Massage can't hurt my back any more than it already does, I guess."
Jim is typical of most Americans trying massage for the first time. Many feel that it can't hurt to try. But what does massage do? What kind of massage should you try? How do you find a massage therapist?
Research on Massage Therapy
A July 2001 survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association found that the number of adults receiving massages from a massage therapist more than doubled since 1997.
Most healthcare providers are recognizing massage therapy as a legitimate aid for lower back pain and an effective adjunct to lower back treatments. Fifty-four percent of healthcare providers say they will encourage their patients to pursue massage therapy in addition to medical treatment.
Read more about Non-Surgical Treatments for Lower Back Pain
A study on massage and back pain conducted at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami in 2001 found that: "Massage lessened lower back pain, depression and anxiety, and improved sleep. The massage therapy group also showed improved range of motion and their serotonin and dopamine levels were higher." (International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 131-145.)
Benefits of Massage Therapy
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, research shows that massage therapy provides several important health benefits, including:
- Massage improves blood circulation, which aids in recovery of muscle soreness from physical activity.
- Massage relaxes muscles for an improved range of motion. The muscle relaxation also helps with insomnia.
- Massage leads to increased endorphin levels. The increase of endorphin levels is actually one of the greatest benefits of massage therapy. Endorphins are the chemicals the body produces that make you feel good, which is very effective in managing chronic pain.