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Massage therapy for people living with MSK pain [INFOGRAPHIC]

July 27, 2020  By Richard Lebert

Chronic MSK pain is associated with significant social and economic costs. Conventional treatment options such opioid-based analgesics, corticosteroid injections, and surgical interventions are associated with small improvements versus placebo and an increased risk of harm, prompting stakeholders to re-evaluate how treatment is provided for people living with chronic MSK pain.

Musculoskeletal pain is a complex and multifactorial phenomenon and treatment requires an individualized multidisciplinary approach that addresses biopsychosocial influences and empowers people with shared decision-making. Increasingly, evidence-based non-pharmacological treatments options are being integrated with standard care as part of a person-centered approach.

The paradigm shift to an evidence-based multidisciplinary approach presents an opportunity for RMTs to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to improve a patient’s health and treatment outcome. With respect to the multidisciplinary treatment of pain, massage therapy has a desirable safety profile and it is a health care option that has been shown to be effective for many persistent pain syndromes. What is often not appreciated is that a number of clinical practice guidelines and systematic reviews support the use of massage therapy for patients suffering from a whole host of conditions, including but not limited to: back pain, tension-type headaches, TMJ disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, and plantar heel pain. For example, the endorsement from the American College of Physicians who now recognizes massage therapy as a treatment option for patients with acute and chronic low back pain. The Canadian Guideline for Opioid and Chronic Non-Cancer Pain now recommends a trial of massage therapy rather than a trial of opioids for a number of conditions including: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis of the knee and headaches.


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Richard Lebert works in Petrolia Ontario and is associate faculty at Lambton College. Richard runs an online resource ( exploring long-term solutions that promote growth and development of the profession. When he is not in the clinic his favorite activities are hiking, camping and kayaking with family and friends.

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