Neck pain is a common and debilitating condition, and massage therapy is commonly used to treat it, yet there is little quality research on the optimal dose of therapeutic massage for neck pain.
Randomizing 228 patients with chronic neck pain to five different groups receiving various doses of massage for a five-week period, researchers found the benefits of massage treatments for chronic neck pain increase with dose.
Specifically, they found that patients who received 30-minute treatments two or three times weekly were not significantly better than a wait-listed control group in terms of achieving a clinically meaningful improvement in neck dysfunction or pain. In contrast, patients who received 60-minute treatments two or three times weekly showed significant improvement in neck dysfunction and pain intensity compared to the control group. Compared with their control counterparts, massage participants were three times more likely to have clinically meaningful improvement in neck function if they received 60 minutes of massage twice a week and five times more likely if they received 60 minutes of massage three times a week.
The authors conclude patients who receive massage treatment for chronic neck pain may not be realizing benefits from treatment because they are not receiving an effective treatment dose.
By Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, et al Group Health Research Institute, Seattle