Results of an NCCAM-funded study found that multiple 60-minute massages per week were more effective than fewer or shorter sessions for people with chronic neck pain, suggesting that several hour-long massages per week may be the best “dose” for people with this condition. Researchers from Group Health Research Institute, University of Washington, The University of Vermont College of Medicine, and Oregon Health and Science University published their findings in the Annals of Family Medicine.
Researchers enrolled 228 people with chronic neck pain into five randomly assigned groups receiving various “doses” of massage: a 4-week course of 30-minute sessions two or three times each week, or 60-minute sessions one, two, or three times each week. Other participants were assigned to a 4-week wait list, which served as the control group. Therapists used a wide range of massage techniques and were not allowed to make any self-care recommendations.
The researchers found that 30-minute massages two or three times per week did not provide significant benefits compared with the wait-list control group. However, beneficial effects of 60-minute massages increased with dose and were particularly evident for participants receiving massages two or three times per week. Compared with the control group, participants were three times more likely to have clinically meaningful improvement in neck function if they received 60-minute massages twice per week and five times more likely if they received 60-minute massages three times per week. However, the researchers noted that longer and more frequent massages might be challenging for many patients due to financial and time constraints. They also noted that future studies of massage for neck pain should include multiple 60-minute massages per week for the first 4 weeks of treatment, self-care recommendations, and longer-term followup.