There's little doubt that a good massage can ease pain and tightness in stressed, overworked muscles. There's growing evidence that it can also help relieve chronic (long-lasting) pain, especially the lower-back variety. A study of 262 patients published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that massage was far superior to acupuncture or patient education for relieving back pain. After 10 weeks, 74 percent of patients said massage was "very helpful". Massage patients were also four times less likely than other patients to report being bedridden with pain. The authors concluded that "massage might be an effective alternative to conventional medical care for persistent back pain."
In a true test of its value, massage has even been shown to ease the chronic pain and other miseries suffered by cancer patients. A study of more than 1,200 patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that massage reduces symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, and pain by about 50 percent.