I've been getting massages for six months now for chronic neck pain after a car accident. They seem to help, but since I don't have another me to clone (one who doesn't go for massage therapy), I have no idea how I would feel without the massages. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just fooling myself. Is there any evidence that massage really makes a difference?
Massage therapists are starting to do some research these days to study the effects of this very pleasant and soothing modality. Does it really work? How long do the effects last? Does it work better than something else like acupuncture or laser therapy? These are the kinds of questions they are trying to answer. There is evidence now that massage improves blood circulation and with it, creates relaxation and boosts immune function. With the right kind of massage, movement of effusion (swelling) is possible in order to reduce pain and increase motion. There are many kinds of therapeutic massage such as friction massage, clinical gliding, Swedish gliding, traction, trigger point therapy, and kneading massage. It's always recommended to see a licensed massage therapist so that you know the individual has the right training and credentials to practice safely. In a recent study at the University of Washington (Seattle), patients with chronic neck pain receiving massage were compared with similar patients who were given a book to read on self-care for neck pain. The massage group used less medication and sought fewer treatments outside of massage. They reported greater improvement in pain intensity and function in the first 10 weeks compared with the self-study group. After analyzing all the data, the authors concluded that in the short-term, massage for neck pain has merit. After six months, what you will want to assess for yourself is how much better are you now compared to when you started? Are you seeing gradual ongoing improvements? Do the changes occur after the massage? If you skipped a week or month of massage, would you notice any difference? You may not have a clone of yourself for comparison, but with some careful observation, you may be able to answer your own questions without one.