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Can therapeutic massage help employers combat the incidence of lower back injuries?

Employers in all settings - office, industry, construction, agriculture - are well aware of the toll that back injuries can have on their workforce. In fact, it is estimated that this particular type of injury results in more so-called "lost days" for employers than any other type of work injury, while back injuries caused by overexertion are estimated to cost employers upwards of $13.4 billion a year.

Given these staggering statistics, is there anything that employers can do to combat the incidence of serious back injuries and the accompanying loss of income?

According to a recently published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the answer may be found in an unlikely procedure: therapeutic massage.

"This topic and study is important because chronic back pain is among the most common reasons people see doctors and alternative practitioners, including massage therapists. It's also a common cause of disability, absenteeism and 'presenteeism,' when people are at work but can't perform well," said Daniel Cherkin PhD, the author of the study and a senior associate at Group Health Research Institute.

What did Cherkin and his fellow researchers discover?

The study was structured as follows: 400 employees with Group Health Research Institute who suffered from some type of lower back pain for a minimum of three months received either standard care (i.e., medication treatment) or a one-hour therapeutic massage (structural or relaxation) once a week for ten weeks.

Cherkin and his fellow researchers determined that after ten weeks, one out of every three employees who received massage treatment reported feeling better or pain free. Conversely, only one out of every 25 employees who received standard care reported improved symptoms.

While the benefits of the massages appeared to dissipate, the researchers reported them being effective in helping heal back injuries for up to six months.

"As expected with most treatments, the benefits of massage declined over time," said Cherkin. "But at six months after the trial started, both types of massage were still associated with improved function."

The researchers theorized that therapeutic massage was so effective in treating work-related back injuries because it allowed the body to enter a state of deep relaxation, meaning it enabled the body to enter an optimal repair state.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice.

Related Resources:

New study shows massage improves lower back pain (The Washington Times)

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