Targeting Back Pain with Massage Therapy in Pilot UK Study

Targeting Back Pain with Massage Therapy in Pilot UK Study


Kevin Pearce: Maybe 10 years ago we did a
study across a lot of primary care practices in Kentucky about what they’re commonly seeing,
and low back pain was in the top 5 things that they would see on a day-to-day basis. Keisa Bennett: The evidence shows more and
more that it’s a very complex process that we don’t understand amongst the nerves and
the muscles and all the parts of the person’s body and including your mental and emotional
health. The treatments that we have as medical providers are frustratingly ineffective, and
many of them are dangerous. Bill Elder: Not every person with chronic
low back pain receives opioid medications, but it has become a huge public health and
personal health problem. These medications sensitize the person to pain. The longer you
take them, the more you need. These medications usually bring increased suffering in the long
term. Keisa Bennett: There’s lots of reasons that
we all wish there were better and more evidenced-based treatments to really help people with the
pain we understand that they’re having. VO: A pilot research study at the University
of Kentucky examined what would happen if primary care providers referred patients with
chronic low back pain to free alternative therapies. The study recruited primary care
providers, and clinical massage therapists, in urban and rural practices in Central Kentucky. Bill Elder: Guidelines exist for treatment
of chronic low back pain and those guidelines recommend the use of these alternative therapies.
However, they haven’t been demonstrated in real-world practice. We want to know if there
are going to be side effects, we want to know if patients will accept them, we want to know
how they work over a longer term. Those are important questions that this study will get
to. Kevin Pearce: What would happen if you were
able offer your patients massage therapy or a guided relaxation therapy program and they
didn’t have to pay for it? A lot of people may say “well so what,” because in the real
world they would have to pay for it, but the way research progresses, is when these things
are tested in the right context, if they are proven to be effective, payers come along
behind and begin to pay for these things. Keisa Bennett: Many of our patients, and particularly
those that need it the most, often live month to month and it’s something they feel they
can’t spend money on. Bill Elder: This study offers these therapies
at no cost, taking money out of the equation. Kevin Pearce: It’s sort of a first step toward
what makes sense to cover for insurance companies, or what people are willing to pay for out
of pocket. VO: The study of 100 patients looked at two
alternative therapies. Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or PMR, is something patients
could do at home, with audio instructions guiding them through tensing and relaxing
different muscle groups. Lee Ball: Our body, if we stop and listen,
will whisper to us, “This is an issue.” And if we keep ignoring it, it gets to where it
screams to us. And then is often when we do something about it. For the older population
who thinks that aches and pains have to be part of growing older, this can maybe help
them see, in addition to maybe some exercise and other things, a piece of what could help
them not have to accept pain as part of their aging process. Katie Stewart: So from a long-term perspective,
they’re breathing a little easier, they’re sleeping better, so all these systems, your
immune system and your nervous system are finally resting, instead of firing the whole
time. And so what this study says is you can send real-world complicated people, which
are people we see every day, into a massage setting and for the most part, they’re gonna
get something out of it and it’s gonna be beneficial, and they’re going to feel better
and they’re going to be “yes, I liked massage.” Bill Elder: This was a real-world study with
real-world results because we were able to engage our community partners, physicians
and massage therapists, across the region. While the PMR findings were less than expected,
we had quantifiable, positive outcomes with massage therapy. In our next study we will
examine which patients benefit most from these treatments. We hope to bring new treatment
options that will relieve suffering in Kentucky.

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