Pain intensity and functional disability decreased significantly among people with chronic nonspecific low back pain after receiving either Thai massage therapy or joint mobilization twice a week for four weeks, according to recent research.

Pain intensity and functional disability decreased significantly among people with chronic nonspecific low back pain after receiving either Thai massage therapy or joint mobilization twice a week for four weeks, according to recent research.

The study, “The effectiveness of Thai massage and joint mobilization,” involved 120 hospital outpatients with chronic nonspecific low back pain.

In order to be included in the study, subjects had to have low back pain that was intermittent, tolerable and without a specific cause. In addition, the duration of the intermittent pain had to be at least three weeks.

For the intervention phase of the study, subjects were randomly assigned to receive either traditional Thai massage therapy or joint mobilization therapy.

The intervention schedule for both modalities consisted of two 30-minute sessions per week for four weeks. The practitioners who provided the joint mobilization and Thai massage therapy were certified physical therapists and massage therapists who worked at the hospital and had more than 10 years of experience.

The study’s authors describe the joint mobilization or spinal manipulation as a combination of “active and passive physiologic back mobilization stretching and strengthening” that included hot pack application, posterior-to-anterior manual pressure focused on the spinous process of the lumber vertebrae, and a prone press-up exercise.

As for the Thai massage therapy intervention, this consisted of “pressing and mobilizing points on two main energy lines (Ida and Pingala), which run along spinous processes from L2 to L5.”

The researchers report the Thai massage sessions also involved the application of herbal hot packs, along with stretching and strengthening certain back muscles.

The main outcome measures in this study were pain and functional disability, which were measured using a visual analog scale and the Owestry Disability Index. Secondary outcome measures included satisfaction with the intervention experience and the overall safety of the intervention.

Results of the research revealed a significant drop in pain intensity and functional disability among subjects in both the joint mobilization and the Thai massage therapy groups following the four-week intervention period.

Participants in both groups reported satisfaction with the intervention experience and no adverse effects.

“The traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization used in this study were equally effective for short-term reduction of pain and disability in patients with chronic nonspecific [low back pain],” conclude the study’s authors.

Authors: Chantip Juntakarn, Thavat Prasartritha and Prapoj Petrakard.

Sources: Institute of Orthopaedics and Department of Academic Support, Lerdsin Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand; and Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Originally published in June 2017 in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 10(2), 3-8.

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