Introduction

Introduction

Musculoskeletal pain has significant social and economic costs (Blyth et al., 2019, Shupler et al., 2019). What’s more is that conventional treatment options such opioid-based analgesics, corticosteroid injections, and surgical interventions are associated with small improvements versus placebo for pain and function and an increased risk of harm (Busse et al., 2017, Chou et al., 2020). This has prompted stakeholders to re-evaluate how treatment is provided for people living with musculoskeletal pain (Lewis et al., 2020; Lin et al., 2020).

Musculoskeletal pain is a complex and multifactorial phenomenon and treatment requires an individualized multidisciplinary approach that addresses biopsychosocial influences and empowers people with shared decision-making. Increasingly evidence-based non-pharmacological treatments options are being integrated with standard care as part of a person-centered approach (Lin et al., 2020; Manchikanti et al., 2020).

The paradigm shift to an evidence-based multidisciplinary approach presents an opportunity for massage therapists to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to improve a patient’s health and treatment outcome. With respect to the multidisciplinary treatment of pain, massage therapy has a desirable safety profile, and it is a health care option that has been shown to be effective for many persistent pain syndromes (Skelly et al., 2020). What is often not appreciated is that several clinical practice guidelines and systematic reviews support the use of massage therapy for patients suffering from a whole host of conditions including but not limited to back pain, tension-type headaches, temporomandibular joint disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, and plantar heel pain.

Specific examples would be the endorsement from the American College of Physicians who recognize massage therapy as a treatment option for patients with acute and chronic low back pain (Chou et al., 2017; Qaseem et al., 2017). Another example is the Canadian Guideline for Opioid and Chronic Non-Cancer Pain who now recommends a trial of massage therapy rather than a trial of opioids for a number of conditions including back and neck pain, osteoarthritis of the knee and headaches (Busse et al., 2017). Internationally – The Global Spine Care Initiative also recognizes the value of non-pharmacological treatment options such as exercise, yoga, and massage therapy (Chou et al., 2018).

Key Takeaways

Based on updated clinical practice guidelines, as a profession Massage Therapists will see an increase in direct physician referrals as we are now recognized as front line treatments for acute and chronic pain. This is a change that did not happened over night, for years massage therapy has been shown to be a safe, effective non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention that is simple to carry out, economical, and has very few side effects.

References & Sources

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Chou, R., Deyo, R., Friedly, J., Skelly, A., Hashimoto, R., Weimer, M., … Brodt, E. D. (2017). Nonpharmacologic Therapies for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review for an American College of Physicians Clinical Practice Guideline. Annals of internal medicine, 166(7), 493–505. doi:10.7326/M16-2459

Chou, R., Côté, P., Randhawa, K., Torres, P., Yu, H., Nordin, M., … Cedraschi, C. (2018). The Global Spine Care Initiative: applying evidence-based guidelines on the non-invasive management of back and neck pain to low- and middle-income communities. European spine journal, 27(Suppl 6), 851–860. doi:10.1007/s00586-017-5433-8

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Evidence-Based Massage Therapy by Richard Lebert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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