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Pain Management Health Center

Need Pain Relief? Massage Gets High Marks

Survey Shows Massage Ranks With Medications for Relief of Pain
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 26, 2005 -- For the treatment of pain, Americans rate massage as highly as medications, a new survey shows.

Conducted by an independent research firm, the annual survey is the ninth commissioned by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

It shows that one in five U.S. adults got a therapeutic massage in the last year. Three-fourths of them would recommend it to others -- one reason for the body therapy's growing popularity.

Among those who actually had a massage in the past year, 28% say massage therapy gives them "the greatest relief from pain." Another 28% say medication gives them the greatest relief. Chiropractic comes in third at 11%, followed by 8% who got the most pain relief from physical therapy, 3% who said acupuncture was best for their pain, and 1% whose pain best responded to biofeedback.

Survey Findings

The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Corp. International in Princeton, N.J., surveyed a national sample of 1,014 U.S. adults. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. It found that:

  • 90% of Americans feel massage is good for a person's health.
  • 93% agree with the statement that massage can be effective for pain relief.
  • Use of massage in people age 65 and older has tripled from 4% in 1997 to 15% in 2005.
  • 22% of Americans had a massage in the past year; 34% had a massage in the last five years.
  • 73% of those who had a massage would recommend it to a person they know.
  • 46% of respondents at some time had a massage to relieve pain.
  • Among respondents who discussed massage with their health care provider, 57% said this health professional strongly recommended massage or encouraged them to get a massage.

Whole-Body Approach to Pain

Massaging sore muscles obviously reduces pain. But massage is really meant as a whole-body approach, says AMTA vice president and licensed massage therapist M.K. Brennan, RN, LMBT.

"One of the things about massage that helps pain is that it goes down to the heart of where people feel their pain," Brennan tells WebMD. "There is the overall sense of well-being one can get from the massage approach. And the stress responses in the body associated with pain, such as elevated cortisol, are reduced through massage."

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