Traditional Thai massage was shown to reduce pain levels and pain perception in patients with nonspecific low-back pain more than a joint mobilization treatment, according to a recent study.

Authors of the study, “Effects of traditional Thai massage versus joint mobilization on substance P and pain perception in patients with nonspecific low-back pain,” say chronic low-back pain is the most common condition in musculoskeletal disease, affecting people of all ages. The randomized clinical trial study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of traditional Thai massage, a deep massage with prolonged pressure on the muscles and passive stretching, compared to Western forms of mobilization in the treatment of nonspecific low-back pain.

Sixty-seven patients were randomly assigned to two groups: the traditional Thai massage group and the mobilization group. Thirty-five patients participated in the traditional Thai massage group, while 32 patients were included in the mobilization group. The Thai massage group received massage on low-back muscles between L2–L5, while joint mobilization on the spinous process of L2–L5 was conducted by an experienced physiotherapist.

The duration of each treatment was 10 minutes. The level of substance P, a neuropeptide that has an important role in chronic back pain, in saliva and a visual analogue scale, an instrument that measures a characteristic or a person’s attitude, were measured before and five minutes after each of the treatments. Substance P levels decreased after both treatments; therefore, overall results indicate traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization alleviate pain in patients with nonspecific low-back pain. Patients in both groups also reported improvements in the visual analogue scale after treatment; however, the traditional Thai massage group reported less pain than the joint mobilization group.

“This result supported our hypothesis that TTM could slightly reduce pain more than joint mobilization,” say the study’s authors.
Authors of the study suggest future studies are needed to verify the long-term effects of both treatments to confirm their effectiveness in relieving nonspecific low-back pain.

Source: Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Associated Medical Science, Khon Kaen University, Thailand; and Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Thailand.
Authors: Surussawadi Mackawan, M.Sc., Wichi Eungpinichpong, Ph.D., Rungthip Pantumethakul, M.Sc., Uraiwon Chatchawan, Ph.D., Tokamol Hunsawong, M.Sc. and Pricha Arayawichanon, M.D. Originally published in Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2007) 11, 9–16.