Massage Therapy for Pain - Mitigating the Overuse of Opioids
Research shows massage therapy is a realistic approach to many forms of pain that can either replace use of drugs, such as opioids, or work in conjunction with non-addictive medicine for pain management. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has compiled some of the strongest clinical and consumer research on massage therapy for pain. 1, 2, 3, 4
Massage therapy is a well-accepted nonpharmacological therapy for managing pain, including a variety of specific chronic pain issues. It is recognized by the National Institutes of Health, and included in nonpharmacological pain guidelines issued by The Joint Commission for hospitals, as well as guidelines by the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards. And, consumers know from experience how massage can help manage their pain - in a 2017 consumer survey, 39% of those who had a massage in the previous 12 months sought it for pain, stiffness or spasms.
Addiction to opioids is a serious health issue in the United States, with more than 34,000 deaths in 2016. Massage therapy is a very real option for many forms of pain, with no risk of addiction.
Research on the benefits of massage therapy for various types of pain continues to grow.
- Crawford C, et al. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population. Pain Med (2016) 17 (7): 1353-1375. “Based on the evidence, massage therapy should be strongly recommended for pain management.”
- Boyd, C, et al. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part II, Cancer Pain Populations. Pain Med (2016) 17 (8): 1553-1568. “Based on the evidence, massage therapy shows promise for reducing pain intensity/severity, fatigue, and anxiety in cancer populations compared to the active comparators evaluated in a new systematic review.”
- Boyd, C, et al. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part III, Surgical Pain Populations. Pain Med (2016) 17 (9): 1757-1772. “The study concludes that patients should consider massage therapy as a therapeutic option to help manage their pain and anxiety from surgical procedures.”
- Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2016;91(9):1292–1306.
Related: Massage Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids
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Client Resource: Massage Therapy for Pain Management