According to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Approximately one in ten people have it, and for many who develop back pain, it becomes a chronic condition. Massage helps improve venous and lymphatic flow throughout the body. By manipulating the muscles, blood flow is able to increase throughout the body. Increasing blood flow facilitates the circulation and absorption of nutritional elements into the muscle tissues.
Research has shown the inclusion of massage therapy can help with chronic pain such as back pain, headaches, osteoarthritis, and behavioral health issues like anxiety and depression, rehabilitation and athletic training and injury treatment.
Another study found that massage may provide lasting relief for chronic lower back pain, according to research published in the journal Pain Medicine. Researchers looked at 104 people with persistent back pain who were referred by their doctors to licensed massage therapists. They went to 10 sessions over 12 weeks, and the practitioners were free to design massage programs that were individual to the patients, rather than all using the same technique.
Most subjects completed a questionnaire, and more than 50% reported clinically meaningful improvement in their back pain. Several people even dropped below the threshold for disability according to lead author Niki Munk, an assistant professor of health sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Additionally, many of these improvements lasted. Three months later, with no further massage sessions, 75% of the people who reported initial improvement said they still felt better.
In a Harvard Medical School Publication, it was noted that therapeutic massage is now recognized as a legitimate therapy for some painful conditions, not just a luxury. It can possibly help to "close the pain gate" by stimulating competing nerve fibers and impeding pain messages to and from the brain.