Multiple 60-Minute Massages per Week Offer Relief for Chronic Neck Pain
Results of an NCCAM-funded study found that multiple 60-minute massages per week were more effective than fewer or shorter sessions for people with chronic neck pain, suggesting that several hour-long massages per week may be the best “dose” for people with this condition. Researchers from Group Health Research Institute, University of Washington, The University of Vermont College of Medicine, and Oregon Health and Science University published their findings in the Annals of Family Medicine.
Researchers enrolled 228 people with chronic neck pain into five randomly assigned groups receiving various “doses” of massage: a 4-week course of 30-minute sessions two or three times each week, or 60-minute sessions one, two, or three times each week. Other participants were assigned to a 4-week wait list, which served as the control group. Therapists used a wide range of massage techniques and were not allowed to make any self-care recommendations.
The researchers found that 30-minute massages two or three times per week did not provide significant benefits compared with the wait-list control group. However, beneficial effects of 60-minute massages increased with dose and were particularly evident for participants receiving massages two or three times per week. Compared with the control group, participants were three times more likely to have clinically meaningful improvement in neck function if they received 60-minute massages twice per week and five times more likely if they received 60-minute massages three times per week. However, the researchers noted that longer and more frequent massages might be challenging for many patients due to financial and time constraints. They also noted that future studies of massage for neck pain should include multiple 60-minute massages per week for the first 4 weeks of treatment, self-care recommendations, and longer-term followup.
- Sherman KJ, Cook AJ, Wellman RD, et al. Five-week outcomes from a dosing trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain.Annals of Family Medicine. 2014;12(2):112–120.
Five-week outcomes from a dosing trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain.
This trial was designed to evaluate the optimal dose of massage for individuals with chronic neck pain.
We recruited 228 individuals with chronic nonspecific neck pain from an integrated health care system and the general population, and randomized them to 5 groups receiving various doses of massage (a 4-week course consisting of 30-minute visits 2 or 3 times weekly or 60-minute visits 1, 2, or 3 times weekly) or to a single control group (a 4-week period on a wait list). We assessed neck-related dysfunction with the Neck Disability Index (range, 0-50 points) and pain intensity with a numerical rating scale (range, 0-10 points) at baseline and 5 weeks. We used log-linear regression to assess the likelihood of clinically meaningful improvement in neck-related dysfunction (≥5 points on Neck Disability Index) or pain intensity (≥30% improvement) by treatment group.
After adjustment for baseline age, outcome measures, and imbalanced covariates, 30-minute treatments were not significantly better than the wait list control condition in terms of achieving a clinically meaningful improvement in neck dysfunction or pain, regardless of the frequency of treatments. In contrast, 60-minute treatments 2 and 3 times weekly significantly increased the likelihood of such improvement compared with the control condition in terms of both neck dysfunction (relative risk = 3.41 and 4.98, P = .04 and .005, respectively) and pain intensity (relative risk = 2.30 and 2.73; P = .007 and .001, respectively).
After 4 weeks of treatment, we found multiple 60-minute massages per week more effective than fewer or shorter sessions for individuals with chronic neck pain. Clinicians recommending massage and researchers studying this therapy should ensure that patients receive a likely effective dose of treatment.
chronic neck pain; clinical trial; complementary and alternative medicine; disability; holistic medicine; massage; pain management