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University of Kentucky study shows effects of massage therapy on low back pain

June 3, 2014 - A recent University of Kentucky study found that clinical massage therapy helps to reduce symptoms of chronic low back pain (CLBP) in patients, according to an article in UKNOW, the University of Kentucky News.

June 3, 2014  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

Researchers in the University of Kentucky Department of Family and Community Medicine teamed up with 67 primary care providers (PCPs) and 26 massage therapists in the Central Kentucky area to investigate the effects of clinical massage and progressive muscle relaxation therapies in patients.

PCPs in five counties referred 85 out of 100 CLBP patients to receive clinical massage therapy, 54 per cent of this group reported a clinically meaningful decrease of pain and overall disability.

Investigators Dr. William Elder, UK Family and Community Medicine, and Dr. Niki Munk, Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, are currently analyzing study results on regional and international levels. Results were most recently presented at the International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health in Miami, May 13-16, 2014.

According to Elder, CLBP is a common diagnosis, even more so among those whose work involved physical labour. The condition is also made worse by emotional stress or anxiety.


The study shows there is evidence-based hope that CLBP symptoms can be alleviated without the use of chemical substances, such as narcotics, that have the potential to cause patient dependency.

The study, which was funded with a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Institute of Health, is significant in that it has created relationships between the university and area massage therapists. It also shows a need for future research into the extent that complementary therapies could alleviate or eradicate a patient’s reliance on opioids.

Elder said the fact-based evidence of the study lends itself as potential encouragement to physicians to refer patients to practicing massage therapists in their communities.

“I think the study has promise for the possibility that someday these treatments could have parity and be available to patients suffering these problems,” Elder said. “This was a real-world study with real-world results because we were able to engage our primary care providers and massage therapies.”

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