Massage May Worsen Chronic Pain

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

A study, reported early in 2004 in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, raised questionsabout the long-term effectiveness of massage therapy for the treatment of chronicpain. The study of 129 patients experiencing diffuse pain for at least 3 months foundthat chronic pain may worsen after massage treatments, especially if the patient isdepressed.

Lead researcher Dan Hasson, RN, an acupuncturist, noted that diffuse chronic painis a common problem and hard to treat. Studies of mental relaxation and massage havebeen inconclusive in determining which course of treatment works best. Therefore,Hasson's study examined massage versus mental relaxation. Of the 129 patients, halfreceived 30-minute massages (1 or 2 times a week) during the 5-week study. Theremaining patients listened to a mental relaxation tape 2 times a week.

"During the treatment, there was a significant improvement in all 3 main outcomemeasures: self-rated health, mental energy, and muscle pain in the massage group,"said Hasson. At the 3-month follow-up, the results were quite different. The massagegroup reported significantly worse pain. The relaxation group did not report changes insymptoms. The patients with increased muscle pain reported less mental energy aswell as feelings associated with depressed moods. Hasson concluded that his studysupports the theory that depression and lower mental energy are related to long-termworsening of chronic pain.