The Effectiveness of Thai Massage and Joint Mobilization

Chantip Juntakarn, MA, Thavat Prasartritha, MD, Prapoj Petrakard, MD


Background: Non-specific low back pain (LBP) is a common health problem resulting from many risk factors and human behaviors. Some of these
may interact synergistically and have been implicated in the cause of low back pain. Massage both traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization as a common practice has been shown to be effective for some subgroup of nonspecific LBP patients.

Purpose and Setting: The trial compared the effectiveness between traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization for treating nonspecific
LBP. Some associated factors were included. The study was conducted at the orthopedic outpatient department, Lerdsin General Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand.

Methods: Prospective, randomized study was developed without control group. The required sample size was estimated based on previous
comparative studies for effectiveness between techniques. Two primary outcome measures were a 0 to 10 visual analog scale (VAS) of pain and
Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Secondary outcome measures were satisfaction of patients and adverse effects of the treatment. The ‘‘intention to treat’’ (ITT) and per protocol approach were used to compare the significance of the difference between treatment groups.

Participants: One hundred and twenty hospital outpatients, 20 (16.7%) male and 100 (83.3%) female, were randomized into traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization therapy. The average age of traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization was 50.7 years and 48.3 years, respectively. Both groups received each treatment for approximately 30 minutes twice per week over a four-week period. Total course did not exceed eight sessions.

Result: With ITT, the mean VAS of traditional Thai massage group before treatment was 5.3 (SD = 1.7) and ODI was 24.9 (SD = 14.7), while in joint
mobilization groups, the mean VAS was 5.0 (SD = 1.6) and ODI was 24.6 (SD = 15). After treatment, the mean VAS and ODI were significantly
reduced (VAS = 0.51 (SD = 0.89) and ODI = 8.1 (SD = 10.7) for traditional Thai massage, VAS = 0.86 (SD = 1.49) and ODI = 8.26 (SD = 12.97) for joint mobilization). Constipation was found in 34 patients (28.3%).

Conclusion: The traditional Thai massage and joint mobilization used in this study were equally effective for short-term reduction of pain and disability in patients with chronic nonspecific LBP. Both techniques were safe with short term effect in a chosen group of patients.


effectiveness; Thai massage; joint mobilization; low back pain

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International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
ISSN 1916-257X