Massage therapists are all too familiar with the chronic pain that brings many clients to massage. Chronic pain is estimated to affect 20 percent of people worldwide, and more than $210 billion is spent each year in the U.S. alone to address chronic pain.

Treatments include pharmacological drugs, rehabilitation, somatic therapies, psychological treatments and exercise.

In a new paper published in the British medical journal The Lancet, authors Dennis C. Turk, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Washington, Seattle, assert that current treatments for chronic, non-cancer-related pain are, simply, ineffective.

Turk is the former director of the university’s Fibromyalgia Research Program, which is no longer in operation. He currently conducts research on fibromyalgia.

“Currently available treatments for chronic pain are unable to alleviate pain or restore functioning in the majority of patients,” they state. The findings of the second paper in The Lancet series on pain highlight the large gaps in the evidence base and call for more research to assess the effectiveness of combinations of therapies to relieve chronic non-cancer pain, while ensuring that patients have realistic expectations about pain relief, according to a university press release.

“[R]esults suggest that none of the most commonly prescribed treatment regimens are, by themselves, sufficient to eliminate pain and to have a major effect on physical and emotional function in most patients with chronic pain,” the authors note. “There is a crucial need for assessment of combination treatments, identification of treatment response, and the assessment of the benefit of matching of treatments to patient characteristics.”

According to the authors, because current treatments by themselves provide only modest improvements in pain and physical and emotional functioning, future research should focus on the effectiveness of combining various treatments.

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