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Massaging the diaphragm could help relieve crippling lower-back pain

Massaging the diaphragm could help relieve crippling lower-back pain, finds new study

  • Massaging the diaphragm helps relieve lower back pain, a new study suggests
  • Patients were put on a treatment program that included diaphragm massages
  • Researchers found patients with the treatment did better than those without it
  • The diaphragm connects to the spine, which may why the treatment is effective
  • Lower back pain is the number one cause of disability in the United Kingdom 

Massaging the diaphragm could help relieve chronic lower back pain, according to a new study.  

The researchers found that patients reported ‘a significant reduction’ in lower back pain following a treatment program with diaphragm massaging when compared with a group without it.

The diaphragm is a ‘sheet’ of muscle that lies beneath our rib cage and is connected to the Thoracic and Lumbar vertebrae in the spine. 

A healthy diaphragm helps us breath by controlling the chest muscles to expand and contract, drawing in and exhaling breath.

When the diaphragm is tense, it shrinks and becomes less mobile, so the body compensates by using the tendons in the spine to control the chest muscles. 

As a result, the back becomes less able to move freely, and this increases the chances of developing lower back pain.

Massaging the diaphragm helps to alleviate chronic back pain by taking the stress off of these overworked tendons.

Although not linked to any serious disease, lower back pain is the number one cause of disability in the UK, according to a March 2014 study. 

Around 80 per cent of US adults say that they’ve suffered from lower back pain at least once in their lives.  

Massaging the diaphragm could help relieve chronic lower back pain, a Spanish study reports

How the research was carried out

Scientists at CEU Cardenal Herrera University in Valencia, Spain, recruited 66 participants aged 18–60 who had been suffering with chronic non-specific low back pain for at least three months.

They were also asked to describe their feelings of pain, disability, fear, pain avoidance, anxiety levels and depression or chronic pain ‘catastrophising’.

Half of the participants were assigned to an osteopathic manipulative treatment that massaging the diaphragm.

The other group were given the treatment program, but only told they would also have their diaphragm massaged.  

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‘Clinically relevant benefit’ from diaphragm massage

While patients on both programs saw an improvement in their lower back pain, the group with the diaphragm treatment showed the largest improvement.  

The researchers say that the treatment group showed a ‘a statistically significant reduction’ of pain in compared with the other group.

‘The difference among both groups reached the clinically significant minimum difference level in the follow-up of patients after three months,’ the authors write in their report, which was published in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

‘Our results suggest the addition of intervention specifically aimed at the diaphragm muscle adds clinically relevant benefits.’   

They noted that the treatment program, even without massaging the diaphragm, was effective in reducing lower back pain.  

The researchers presented their findings at the International Osteopathy Congress 2018, held in Madrid, Spain.

The researchers found that patients reported ‘a statistically significant reduction’ in their lower back pain following a program of diaphragm massaging compared with a group without it

Are painkillers effective at countering back pain? 

This comes after a major review discovered that millions of people with back pain are being given the wrong treatment.

Many patients are needlessly being prescribed strong painkillers, wrongly told to rest or even undergoing unnecessary surgery in a bid to treat lower back pain.

This is despite mounting evidence showing that simple exercises and stretches are more effective for easing symptoms.

The series of international studies, published in The Lancet medical journal earlier this year, showed that many NHS patients are being prescribed powerful opioid pain killers, treated in hospital A&Es and referred for scans or surgery, rather than begin encouraged to stay active as prescribed by international guidelines.

Lower back pain is now the leading cause of disability in the UK, responsible for more than one in 10 of all serious health complaints.

It costs the NHS £2.1 billion annually and is estimated to cost the UK economy around £10 billion in lost working days and informal care.


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