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Massage for low back pain


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Randomized Controlled Trial


Structural and chiropractic

Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2000;(4):CD001929.


A D Furlan, L Brosseau, V Welch, J Wong


Background: Low back pain is one of the most common and costly musculoskeletal problems in modern societies. Proponents of massage therapy claim it can minimize pain and disability, and speed return to normal function.Objectives: To assess the effects of massage therapy for non-specific low back pain.Search strategy: We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Healthstar, CINAHL and Dissertation abstracts from 1966 to 1999 with no language restrictions. References in the included studies and in reviews of the literature were also screened. Contact with content experts and massage associations were also made.Selection criteria: This review included randomized, quasi-randomized or controlled clinical trials that investigated the use of any type of massage (using the hands or a mechanical device) as a treatment for nonspecific low back pain.Data collection and analysis: One reviewer applied the selection criteria and extracted the data. Two reviewers (one blinded to authors, institutions and journals) independently assessed the quality of each trial. A qualitative analysis (best-evidence synthesis) was performed due to clinical heterogeneity among the included trials and insufficient data reported.Main results: Four randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria. Two trials were of high and two of low methodological quality. None evaluated massage as the main intervention. Rather, it was the control intervention in studies evaluating manipulation, electrical stimulation, and a lumbar corset. There is limited evidence showing that massage is less effective than manipulation immediately after the first session and moderate evidence showing it is less effective than TENS during the course of sessions in relieving pain and improving activity. At the completion of treatment and at 3 weeks after discharge there is no difference among massage and manipulation, electrical stimulation or corsets, but this evidence is limited.Reviewer's conclusions: Based on the studies reviewed, there is insufficient evidence to recommend massage as a stand-alone treatment for non-specific low back pain. There is a need for high quality controlled trials to further evaluate the effects of massage for this condition.

Publication Date: 

2000 Oct



Furlan, DA., Brosseau, L., Welch, V., Wong, J. (2000) 'Massage for low back pain', Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2000;(4):CD001929.

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