In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Self Massage Can Help Ease Chronic Pain

There have been studies that show how massage therapy can help ease some chronic pain conditions. Many people are familiar with the benefits of getting a massage from a trained professional, but only some are familiar with doing self-massage and the benefits it can provide. A study published in the October 2023 issue of the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine sheds light on the benefits of using self-massage to help manage chronic pain [1].

Researchers took to online databases to scour for published studies that included using self-massage for chronic pain. Their analysis included clinical studies where self-massage was more than 50% of the intervention used for chronic pain. They assessed variables such as outcome, massage dosage, setting, and adherence to using it. Their analysis included 17 studies being evaluated that met their criteria.

What the study found was that self-massage duration ranged from using it for a single session to using it for 8-12 weeks, with four weeks being the most commonly prescribed length of time. Self-massage techniques were used for arthritis pain in the knee, neck, and hand, as well as for back and neck pain, stress, and anxiety.

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Out of 11 of the studies that used only self-massage, there were 7 of them that showed significant improvement in the outcomes that were measured. This included reducing neck and back pain, reducing stress and anxiety, improving fatigue and quality of sleep, and improving overall well-being. There were additional health benefits reported from doing self-massage, including when improving anxiety, depression, pain threshold, and pain intensity.

The researchers conclude that using self-massage for musculoskeletal pain in chronic conditions is a viable option that can be done on its own or to enhance the massage therapy received from a professional. Self-massage techniques can be quickly learned and applied, and they can be an excellent tool to use for the management of chronic pain.

Those who would like to learn self-massage to help with chronic pain conditions can do an online search to find videos and instructions explaining how to target particular areas. There are free videos that can be found on YouTube that provide people with an affordable way to help bring about pain relief. Self-massage can be done with the hands, as well as with tools that can be purchased. Whether they want to try using it once or stick with it for a more extended period, it will bring about benefits. 

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1.    Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine. Massage Therapy as a Self-Management Strategy for Musculoskeletal Pain and Chronic Conditions. October 2023.

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

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