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Massage better than meds for back pain, research finds

Nagging back pain? New research reports that a weekly one-hour massage could be just the thing. A study shows that a 10-week massage treatment reduced pain more than medications and exercises, and the effects lasted for six months.
The research, published July 5 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, involved about 400 patients aged 20 to 65 with chronic low back pain.

Seattle-based researchers from the Group Health Research Institute examined the benefits of relaxation massage, such as Swedish-style massage, and more structural massage, a technique provided by therapists with advanced training.

The study found that both kinds of massage benefited the subjects.

At the end of the 10-week treatment, nearly 40 percent of patients in the massage groups said their pain was nearly or completely gone, compared to 4 percent in the usual care group, which included treatments such as taking pain medications or muscle relaxants, seeing doctors or physical therapists, or not doing anything.
A prior study from the National Institutes of Health found that massage therapy may have immediate benefits on pain and mood among patients with advanced cancer. The study appeared in a 2008 issue of the same journal.

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