New Research Supports Massage as Supplemental Treatment for Low-Back Pain & Burn Scars

  • Massage showed fast therapeutic results in reducing chronic low back pain—even for patients that don’t use anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Burn rehabilitation massage therapy reduces pain, itching and scarring characteristics—such as scar thickness and elasticity—providing relief to burn victims.

Two new independent clinical studies demonstrate that massage therapy eases pain and improves recovery time for people suffering from lower back injuries and burns. The two studies support recent findings from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that found 43 percent of consumers reported their primary reason for receiving a massage in the previous year was for a medical/health care reason. And, physicians play a key role in discussing massage therapy with patients—48 percent of respondents indicated they were encouraged by their doctor to receive a massage.

“These findings emphasize what professional massage therapists know: massage is good medicine,” said Nancy Porambo, AMTA President. “Massage therapy provided by a professional massage therapist is being increasingly viewed by physicians and their patients as an important component of integrated care. Nearly 9 of 10 American consumers believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain. And, a growing body of clinical research continues to validate that.”

Massage Therapy Can Help Low-Back Pain

In a study published in the February 2014 edition of Scientific World Journal, researchers investigated whether chronic low-back pain therapy with massage therapy alone was as effective as combining it with non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. The study was conducted on 59 individuals divided into two groups, all of whom suffered from low-back pain and were diagnosed with degenerative changes of the spine, other intervertebral disc diseases or spine pain.

In both patient groups, the pain measured was significantly reduced and the level of disability showed significant improvement compared to the baseline. Researchers concluded massage had a positive effect on patients with chronic low-back pain and propose that the use of massage causes fast therapeutic results and that, in practice, it could help to reduce the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of chronic low-back pain .

Massage to Reduce Burn Scars

In a separate study published in the March issue of the journal Burns, 146 burn patients with scars were randomly divided into two groups. All patients received standard rehabilitation therapy for hypertrophic scars—known as raised scars that are typically red, thick and may be itchy or painful—and 76 patients received additional burn scar rehabilitation massage therapy. Both before and after the treatment, researchers assessed the scar characteristics for thickness, melanin, erythema, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), sebum, and elasticity.

While both groups showed improvement, the massage group showed a significant decrease in scar thickness, melanin, erythema, and TEWL. There was a significant intergroup difference in skin elasticity with the massage group showing substantial improvement.

Researchers concluded that burn rehabilitation massage therapy is effective in improving pain, itching, and scar characteristics in hypertrophic scars after a burn.

“These studies clearly show that massage therapy, in conjunction with standard treatment, can be a real benefit to patients,” Porambo said. “We encourage patients with low back pain and hypertrophic burns to consider what massage therapy may do for them and to discuss it with their physicians.”

The AMTA’s most recent consumer survey, published in October, found that physicians play a key role in discussing massage therapy with patients, as 48 percent of respondents indicated they were encouraged by their doctor to receive a massage.

To learn more about the health benefits of massage or to find an AMTA professional massage therapist near you, visit

About The American Massage Therapy Association

The American Massage Therapy Association is the largest non-profit, professional association serving massage therapists, massage students and massage schools. Founded in 1943, AMTA works to advance the massage therapy profession through ethics and standards, the promotion of fair and consistent licensing of massage therapists in all states, and public education on the benefits of massage.

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"As a professional member of AMTA, I have found comfort in knowing that all the effort I put into obtaining my massage certification is recognized and protected. AMTA standards validate the profession."

Kim K., AMTA member since 2003

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AMTA has long been the leading choice among massage therapists looking to establish themselves within the profession. We provide our members with the strongest benefits and promote massage therapy to the public and health care community.

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