By Sarah Costa, CMT
As professionals in the field of massage therapy today, we are constantly working hard to make a place for massage within the world of medicine. There have been great strides in recent decades to legitimize the efficacy of massage in the treatment of not just musculoskeletal dysfunction, but many common medical conditions as well. We are starting to see a shift as doctors are recommending or referring patients for massage. We are also seeing with more frequency that healthcare patients are no longer satisfied with the typical answers of pills or surgery. These people are becoming our clients, as they are looking for new medical options like massage and neurological stress reduction.
So what are some of the ways that massage has brought relief to previously frustrated health care patients? We can start with the most obvious: low back pain. A study by the Annals of Internal Medicine just released last month, found that patients that had received a one-hour massage each week for 10 weeks after the onset of the condition fared better than patients that received the traditional treatments of pain medication, muscle relaxers and physical therapy. This is no surprise to massage professionals, but it is refreshing to see that the medical community is started to develop scientific evidence that supports what our practice has been demonstrating for years. It is important for people to know that there is a more effective treatment for back pain than pills. The impact of this research can be profound when you consider that 80% of all people experience an episode of low back pain at least once in their lifetime and that as a nation it is the second largest job related medical complaint. An alarming percentage of health care dollars is spent each year on medical treatments for the back and neck; as of 2005 it was close to $90 billion.
Clients have found massage therapy to be beneficial in ways that traditional medical treatments have not in regards to many other conditions. And, massage is on the rise. It’s being used to treat conditions like headaches/migraines, TMJ, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and lymphedema. In addition, massage can be used to postpone and even avoid orthopedic surgeries related to carpal tunnel, rotator cuff tears, and hip/ knee replacements. The medical community is still working on building the scientific research to back up our practical knowledge in regards to the efficacy of many of these treatments. As of right now, it boils down to the experiences of people like you; knowing they get relief from their regular visits to a massage therapist. As the strength and influence of alternative medicine grows in the United States, we will continue to see scientific evidence through research that supports the work that we do, because we know it works.