Neck pain is a common condition, affecting 30% to 50% of people within a 12 month period. Neck pain also accounts for more than 10 million ambulatory medical care visits per year in the United States. At least one-half of persons with neck pain report chronic or recurrent neck problems at 1 to 5 years of follow-up. Neck pain is the second leading reason for use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), with chiropractic and massage most commonly used. In a national survey, 61% of persons with neck pain who used both CAM and conventional therapies perceived CAM therapies to be more helpful for this condition, whereas just 6% perceived conventional treatments to be better. Massage is the second most commonly used CAM therapy for neck pain.
A recent study was designed to evaluate the optimal dose of massage for individuals with chronic neck pain. The study involved 228 individuals with chronic nonspecific neck pain from an integrated health care system and the general population, and randomized them into groups receiving various doses of massage (a 4-week course consisting of 30-minute visits 2 or 3 times weekly or 60-minute visits 1, 2, or 3 times weekly) or to a single control group (a 4-week period on a wait list). Neck-related dysfunction and pain intensity were obtained at baseline and 5 weeks later. Results indicated that after 4 weeks of treatment, multiple 60-minute massages per week more effective than fewer or shorter sessions for individuals with chronic neck pain.