In the past year, three surveys validated what massage therapists have known experientially for many years: Massage reduces chronic pain.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for longer than a month, and is either sporadic or constant. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than one-third of all Americans will suffer from chronic pain at some point in their lives, and approximately 14% of all employees take time off from work due to pain.
The NIH cites that most common chronic pain complaints are due to headache, low back pain, cancer and arthritis. A survey by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) shows that 26% of all pain was the result of strain, such as lifting a heavy object, and 22% came from an accident or injury.
Health Care Community Says Yes to Massage
Massage is no longer a distant cousin to other pain relief therapies. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has suggested massage therapy as one means to manage pain without the use of pharmaceuticals. This is especially good news for anyone who has difficulty tolerating pain medication. More and more medical practitioners are reading about the efficacy of massage in peer magazines, increasing their awareness of the benefits of massage, including Health and Medicine Week, Pain and Central Nervous System Week and Managed Care Weekly Digest.
A recent American Health Association study about the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies shows that stress and pain reduction were the main reasons why patients and hospital staff sought massage therapy. Among the 1,007 hospitals responding, nearly 82% of the hospitals offering CAM therapies included massage therapy among their health-care offerings, with more than 70% utilizing massage therapy for pain management and relief.
These surveys have significant implications for the management and treatment of pain, which the NIH has identified as a significant national health issue. According to NIH, pain is the most common reason people seek medical care and that more than one-third of all Americans will suffer from chronic pain at some point in their lives.
The AHA survey and the growing use of massage therapy as revealed in annual consumer surveys suggests that hospitals and healthcare organization are positively responding to the consensus of research and evidence highlighting the benefits of massage. Recent clinical research on the efficacy of massage for pain management has demonstrated that:
Massage therapy is more effective for chronic back pain than other complementary therapies.
Chronic pain diminishes the quality of life for sufferers and affects those around them. Massage helps with the pain, stiffness and soreness which improves the quality of a person's life.
 Cherkin, D.C., Eisenberg, D., et al., "Randomized Trial Comparing Traditional Chinese Medical Acupuncture, Therapeutic Massage, and Self-Care Education for Chronic Low Back Pain." Arch Intern Med. 161(8):108-8; April 23, 2001
 Ferrell-Torry, A.T. and Glick, O.J. "The Use of Therapeutic Massage as a Nursing Intervention to Modify Anxiety and the Perception of Cancer Pain." Cancer Nurse. 16(2):93-101;April 1993
 Jensen, O.K., Neilson, F.F., Vosmar, L. "An Open Study Comparing Manual Therapy with the use of Cold Packs in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Headache. Cephalalgia (Norway). 10(5): 241-50; October 1990
 Pilot study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.