Body of research highlights effectiveness of massage therapy
Massage therapy is now being recognised as an evidence-based therapeutic modality effective in treating non-acute low back pain and improving well being for people with chronic illnesses, according to the ‘Effectiveness of Massage Therapy’ report. The report, commissioned by the Australian Association of Massage Therapists (AAMT), comprises a review of 740 Australian and international, evidence-based academic research papers, published between 1978 and 2008.
Lead researcher, Dr Kenny Ng says there are a number of key findings. “Research shows that massage is effective particularly for managing chronic lower back pain, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), anxiety, stress and relaxation. There is also evidence that shows massage therapy helps support the wellbeing of patients with chronic and terminal diseases, such as cancer". The full report can be downloaded from www.aamt.com.au
For Neck Pain, Chiropractic and Exercise Are Better Than Drugs
A new study is one of the few head-to-head comparisons of various treatments for neck pain. While many people seek out spinal manipulation by chiropractors, the evidence supporting its usefulness has been limited at best. But the new research, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, found that chiropractic care or simple exercises done at home were better at reducing pain than taking medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or narcotics.
Dr. Bronfort and his colleagues recruited a large group of adults with neck pain that had no known specific cause. The subjects, 272 in all, were mostly recruited from a large HMO and through advertisements. The researchers then split them into three groups and followed them for about three months.
One group was assigned to visit a chiropractor for roughly 20-minute sessions throughout the course of the study, making an average of 15 visits. A second group was assigned to take common pain relievers like acetaminophen and — in some cases, at the discretion of a doctor — stronger drugs like narcotics and muscle relaxants. The third group met on two occasions with physical therapists who gave them instructions on simple, gentle exercises for the neck that they could do at home. They were encouraged to do 5 to 10 repetitions of each exercise up to eight times a day.
After 12 weeks, the people in the non-medication groups did significantly better than those taking the drugs. About 57 percent of those who met with chiropractors and 48 percent who did the exercises reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group. A year later, when the researchers checked back in, 53 percent of the subjects who had received spinal manipulation still reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, similar to the exercise group. That compared to just a 38 percent pain reduction among those who had been taking medication.
Dr. Bronfort said it was a “big surprise” to see that the home exercises were about as effective as the chiropractic sessions. “We hadn’t expected that they would be that close,” he said. “But I guess that’s good news for patients.” In addition to their limited pain relief, the medications had at least one other downside: people kept taking them. “The people in the medication group kept on using a higher amount of medication more frequently throughout the follow-up period, up to a year later,” Dr. Bronfort expressed concern that those on medications were not as empowered or active in their own care as those in the other groups. “We think it’s important that patients are enabled to deal with as much control over their own condition as possible,” he said. “This study shows that they can play a large role in their own care.”
Human musculoskeletal system is not tuned to maximize the economy of locomotion
Humans are known to have energetically optimal walking and running speeds at which the cost to travel a given distance is minimized. The authors from a study conducted at Kent State University, Ohio hypothesized that “optimal” walking and running speeds would also exist at the level of individual locomotor muscles. Additionally, because humans are 60–70% more economical when they walk than when they run, they predicted that the different muscles would exhibit a greater degree of tuning to the energetically optimal speed during walking than during running.
To test these hypotheses, the authors used electromyography to measure the activity of 13 muscles of the back and legs over a range of walking and running speeds in human subjects and calculated the cumulative activity required from each muscle to traverse a kilometer.
They found that activity of each of these muscles was minimized at specific walking and running speeds but the different muscles were not tuned to a particular speed in either gait. While many of our muscles are most efficient at a brisk walking pace , not all of them are. This contradicts the hypothesis that all the muscles would be most efficient. We’re efficient walkers, but not as efficient as we could be.
Although humans are clearly highly specialized for terrestrial locomotion compared with other great apes, the results of this study indicate that our locomotor muscles are not tuned to specific walking or running speeds and, therefore, do not maximize the economy of locomotion. This pattern may have evolved in response to selection to broaden the range of sustainable running speeds, to improve performance in motor behaviors not related to endurance locomotion, or in response to selection for both.
Massage Therapy May Improve Asthma Symptoms in Children
Massage therapy may improve lung function for children with asthma, according to a new study from Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in Egypt. A previous study published in 1988 by Tiffany Field from the Touch Institute indicated that the younger children who received massage therapy showed an immediate decrease in behavioral anxiety and cortisol levels after massage. Also, their attitude toward asthma and their peak air flow and other pulmonary functions improved.
In the new study from Egypt, 60 children with asthma were randomly assigned to receive 20 minutes of massage therapy from their parents at home for five weeks in addition to standard asthma care, or to a control group of only standard care. Several lung function tests, including spirometry, which measures the volume of air that can be inhaled or exhaled, forced expiratory flow in one second, which is the speed of air coming out of the lung, were performed on the first and last day of treatment.
The researchers found that at the end of the study, forced expiratory flow was significantly higher for children in the massage therapy group when compared to the control group. There was also a significant improvement in the forced respiratory flow to forced vital capacity (volume of air that can be forced out after full inspiration) ratio. No significant improvements were found for other lung function tests, including the peak expiratory flow.
The authors concluded that massage therapy may improve lung function for children with asthma. However, further well-designed studies are necessary to confirm these findings.
Abdel Fattah M, Hamdy B. Pulmonary functions of children with asthma improve following massage therapy. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Nov;17(11):1065-8.
Adieu Bonnie Prudden
Bonnie Prudden, a fitness pioneer and founder of Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, passed away 11 Dec 2011, at her home in Tucson, Arizona. She was 97 years old. In the 1940-50s, Prudden was an accomplished fitness enthusiast. In 1976, she developed Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, a simple method of relieving muscle pain. She went on to write Myotherapy: Bonnie Prudden’s Complete Guide to Pain-Free Living in which she shows step by step through photographs, charts and drawings how to erase and recover from muscle pain and how to maintain, repair, tune up and take charge of your body. In 1980 she opened a school to train myotherapists to erase pain from muscles by pressing on the trigger points and then using appropriate exercises to keep the muscles free of pain.