What is the role of massage and acupressure in the treatment of low back pain (LBP)?

Updated: Aug 22, 2018
  • Author: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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Answer

Answer

There is strong evidence that massage is effective for nonspecific cLBP and moderate evidence that massage provides both short- and longer term relief of symptoms. There is moderate evidence that acupressure may be better than Swedish massage methods, especially if combined with exercise. Swedish massage shows the same benefit as traditional Thai massage. Massage is beneficial to patients with cLBP in terms of improving symptoms and function. Although massage therapy may appear costly, it ultimately saves money by reducing the need for healthcare provider visits and the use of pain medications and possibly other back care services. The effects of massage are increased when combined with exercise and education, and when the massage is delivered by a licensed therapist. The beneficial effects of massage in cLBP can be long-lasting (at least one year after the end of sessions).

Although it does appear that acupressure is better than classic massage, this needs empirical confirmation. Again, more high-quality studies are necessary, including those that measure the cost-effectiveness of outcomes.


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