Chronic Low Back Pain
Clinical practice guidelines issued jointly by the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society recommend that for patients who have chronic low back pain and do not improve with self-care options, clinicians should consider the addition of non-drug options that have proven benefits, including massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and progressive relaxation. The recommendations were based on clinical trails funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. For more information, see https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/massage-science
NIH points out that back pain yoga practitioners should work with a qualified yoga instructor. According to NIH, "Current research, while limited in scope, suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may reduce low-back pain and improve function.... People with back pain should work with an experienced teacher who can help modify or avoid some yoga poses to prevent adverse effects." For more information, see https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/chronic-low-back-pain
In another study published in 2011 of patients with chronic low back pain, researchers found that "patients receiving massage were twice as likely as those receiving usual care to report significant improvements in both their pain and function." The study was conducted over 10 weeks through Group Health Research Institute. *
* Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, Wellman R, Cook AJ, Johnson E, Erro J, Delaney K, Delaney k, Deyo RA, "A Comparison of the Effects of Two Types of Massage and Usual Care on Chronic Low Back Pain," Annals of Internal Medicine, July 5, 2011, 155(1):1-9.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome characterized by generalized pain, rigid joints, fatigue, headache, anxiety, depression, and other maladies.
When I practiced massage therapy in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, I was a provider for the Kaiser-Permanente HMO. The local Kaiser-Permanente clinic offered a support group for Chronic Pain sufferers. The doctor who oversaw the support group was both an MD and an acupuncturist. She recommended that the fibromyalgia patients manage their conditions with a combination of regular massage therapy with acupuncture. Consequently I had several regular massage therapy patients who managed their fibromyalgia pain with a combination of massage therapy and acupuncture. These patients reported that their symptoms and pain had been substantially reduced by having regular massage and acupuncture. Here's what the research says....
According to NIH, "...there is some encouraging evidence that practices such as tai chi, qi gong, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, and balneothereapy (spa hydrotherapy) may help relieve some fibromyalgia symptoms. Mediative movement therapies such as tai chi, qi gong, and yoga result in modest improvements in sleep disturbances, fatigue, depressed mood, and health-related quality of life for those with fibromyalgia.... Massage showed modest, short-term benefits for fibromyalgia symptoms in a review of several small studies." (NIH notes that more research is needed on massage for fibromyalgia.)
For more information, see the NIH website at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/fibromyalgia
The medical community recommends activity for arthritis sufferers, and yoga can be an excellent choice for arthritis sufferers. Johns Hopkins is one of the most prestigious medical centers in the country, and it has a wonderful website about yoga for arthritis patients. "While there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of yoga (just visit any yoga studio), to date only a handful of scientific studies have been conducted on persons with OA (osteoartritis) and RA (rheumatoid arthritis) (though several more are currently underway)," Johns Hopkins reports.
"...Yoga can be a meaningful and enjoyable alternative to traditional forms of exercise such as aerobics or aquatic exercise with important health benefits," Johns Hopkins continues.
" Yoga can play an important role in reducing stress and frustration that results from pain and disability, and increasing positive feelings and wellbeing. Drug treatments for OA and RA have improved markedly in the last few years. Despite this, arthritis cannot be cured, and even the best medications and medical care can only help so much. There is a great need for additional activities patients can do to reduce pain, disability, and take control of the overall impact arthritis may have on their lives. Thus, the evidence suggests that, when combined with a program of good medical care, yoga may provide important additional physical and psychological health benefits for arthritis patients. Scientists at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center hope to be at the forefront of exploring this relationship through rigorously conducted clinical research trials." For more information, see http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/yoga-for-arthritis/
Practiced properly, yoga builds musculoskeletal alignment, creates stronger, healthier, and more flexible muscles, while relieving stress on compacted joints. All of that can prevent osteoarthritis or help minimize its progression.
Massage helps, too. Once again, there's not a lot of research, but here's what is available so far: Once a week, 60-minute massages significantly reduced pain from osteoarthritis of the knee, according to an NIH study published in 2012. A 2009 clinical trial reported that massage may help with chronic neck pain. More information at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/massage-science According to a 2008 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, regular massage is beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis patients.**
**Field T., Diego M., Delgado Jr. Garcia D, Funk CG, "Rheumatoid Arthritis in Upper Limbs Benefits from Moterate Pressure Massage Therapy. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2013 May