Research: WALACH and co-workers,

Listed in Issue 103


WALACH and co-workers, Department of Environmental Medicine and Hospital Hygiene, University Hospital Freiburg, Hugstetterstrasse 55, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany,, report on a randomized trial of massage therapy in chronic pain.


Although classical massage is widely used for the treatment of chronic pain conditions, there are no randomized controlled trials. This small study aimed to make a step towards remedying this state of affairs.


29 patients presenting with chronic pain were randomized, 19 to receive massage and 10 to receive standard medical care. The main outcome measure, pain, was assessed pre treatment, post treatment, and at 3 months follow-up. Depression, anxiety, and body concept were also measured at the same time points.


Pain improved significantly in both groups, but the improvement was only sustained at 3 months in the massage group. Depression and anxiety were significantly lowered in both groups but again the change was only sustained in the massage group.


Massage can be at least as effective as standard medical care in chronic pain. Relative changes are comparable but more sustained with massage, and tend to generalize more into psychological wellbeing.


Walach H, Guethlin C, Koenig M. Efficacy of massage therapy in chronic pain: a pragmatic randomized trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 9 (6): 837-846, Dec 2003.


The above study demonstrated that massage was able to significantly improve chronic pain in sufferers, as well as to lower measures of depression and anxiety. The conclusions drawn by the author was that massage was at least as effective as standard medical care in chronic pain, and in fact more sustained with massage. Let us hope that we will be seeing massage being more regularly offered for pain relief in general medical practice.

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