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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:204360. doi: 10.1155/2014/204360. Epub 2014 Feb 20.

Efficacy of massage therapy on pain and dysfunction in patients with neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210023, China ; Department of Spinal Surgery of the First People's Hospital of Hefei, 390 Huaihe Road, Hefei 230061, China.
Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210023, China.



To systematically evaluate the evidence of whether massage therapy (MT) is effective for neck pain.


Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were identified through searches of 5 English and Chinese databases (to December 2012). The search terms included neck pain, neck disorders, cervical vertebrae, massage, manual therapy, Tuina, and random. In addition, we performed hand searches at the library of Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Two reviewers independently abstracted data and assessed the methodological quality of RCTs by PEDro scale. And the meta-analyses of improvements on pain and neck-related function were conducted.


Fifteen RCTs met inclusion criteria. The meta-analysis showed that MT experienced better immediate effects on pain relief compared with inactive therapies (n = 153; standardised mean difference (SMD), 1.30; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.09 to 2.50; P = 0.03) and traditional Chinese medicine (n = 125; SMD, 0.73; 95% CI 0.13 to 1.33; P = 0.02). There was no valid evidence of MT on improving dysfunction. With regard to follow-up effects, there was not enough evidence of MT for neck pain.


This systematic review found moderate evidence of MT on improving pain in patients with neck pain compared with inactive therapies and limited evidence compared with traditional Chinese medicine. There were no valid lines of evidence of MT on improving dysfunction. High quality RCTs are urgently needed to confirm these results and continue to compare MT with other active therapies for neck pain.

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