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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 4 (2007), Issue 2, Pages 165-179
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nel109
Review

Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Chronic, Non-Malignant Pain: A Review

Pediatric Pain Program, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 10940 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, California 90024, USA

Received 21 July 2006; Accepted 4 December 2006

Copyright © 2007 Jennie C. I. Tsao. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Previous reviews of massage therapy for chronic, non-malignant pain have focused on discrete pain conditions. This article aims to provide a broad overview of the literature on the effectiveness of massage for a variety of chronic, non-malignant pain complaints to identify gaps in the research and to inform future clinical trials. Computerized databases were searched for relevant studies including prior reviews and primary trials of massage therapy for chronic, non-malignant pain. Existing research provides fairly robust support for the analgesic effects of massage for non-specific low back pain, but only moderate support for such effects on shoulder pain and headache pain. There is only modest, preliminary support for massage in the treatment of fibromyalgia, mixed chronic pain conditions, neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Thus, research to date provides varying levels of evidence for the benefits of massage therapy for different chronic pain conditions. Future studies should employ rigorous study designs and include follow-up assessments for additional quantification of the longer-term effects of massage on chronic pain.