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