Trial Outcomes for Massage: Caregiver-Assisted vs. Therapist-Treated

Study Purpose

Given the modest effectiveness of current treatments and the burden chronic neck pain places on Veterans, the investigators' research proposal is significant in several regards. First, Trial Outcomes for Massage: Caregiver-Assisted vs.#46; Therapist-Treated (TOMCATT) Study directly addresses a high priority area for the VA and is well aligned with the VHA Pain Management Strategy and VHA Pain Management Directive 2009-053. Second, because previous massage studies have included relatively small sample sizes, this trial will provide information vital to fill an evidence vacuum regarding effectiveness of a massage treatments for chronic neck pain. Third, TOMCATT will extend the current understanding of non-pharmacological treatments. Fourth, if the study hypotheses are corroborated massage may emerge as an effective, safe, affordable, sustainable, and accessible treatment for Veterans.

Recruitment Criteria

Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Healthy volunteers are participants who do not have a disease or condition, or related conditions or symptoms

Study Type

An interventional clinical study is where participants are assigned to receive one or more interventions (or no intervention) so that researchers can evaluate the effects of the interventions on biomedical or health-related outcomes.

An observational clinical study is where participants identified as belonging to study groups are assessed for biomedical or health outcomes.

Searching Both is inclusive of interventional and observational studies.

Eligible Ages 18 Years and Over
Gender All
More Inclusion & Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion Criteria:

- Chronic neck pain for 6 months or longer - Neck pain of at least moderate severity (NDI score greater than or equal to 15)

Exclusion Criteria:

- Neck pain secondary to vertebral fracture or metastatic cancer - Complex neck pain (e.g. cervical radiculopathy or recent whiplash injury) - Any massage professional massage therapy within the last 6 months - Active suicidal ideation - Moderate to severe cognitive impairment - Pending neck surgery - Involvement in active pain or massage trials

Trial Details

Trial ID:

This trial id was obtained from, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, providing information on publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants with locations in all 50 States and in 196 countries.


Phase 1: Studies that emphasize safety and how the drug is metabolized and excreted in humans.

Phase 2: Studies that gather preliminary data on effectiveness (whether the drug works in people who have a certain disease or condition) and additional safety data.

Phase 3: Studies that gather more information about safety and effectiveness by studying different populations and different dosages and by using the drug in combination with other drugs.

Phase 4: Studies occurring after FDA has approved a drug for marketing, efficacy, or optimal use.

Lead Sponsor

The sponsor is the organization or person who oversees the clinical study and is responsible for analyzing the study data.

VA Office of Research and Development
Principal Investigator

The person who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the entire clinical study.

Matthew J. Bair, MD MS
Principal Investigator Affiliation Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN
Agency Class

Category of organization(s) involved as sponsor (and collaborator) supporting the trial.

U.S. Fed
Overall Status Recruiting
Countries United States

The disease, disorder, syndrome, illness, or injury that is being studied.

Neck Pain, Chronic Pain, Pain, Arthritis, Musculoskeletal Pain, Osteoarthritis
Additional Details

Background: Neck pain is the fourth leading cause of disability in the US, after back pain, depression, and joint pain, and accounts for more than 10 million medical visits per year. Conventional treatments (medications, physical therapy) are widely used for chronic neck pain, yet have modest effectiveness and may carry risks, such as the toxicities associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids. As a result many patients live with chronic, often debilitating, pain. Patients unable to find relief frequently turn to complementary health approaches. Complementary therapies are exceptionally popular among Veterans; 82% reported use of at least one complementary therapy and nearly all (99%) were willing to try massage for pain relief. Neck pain is the second most common reason for using a complementary therapy, with massage used for neck pain more commonly than all other complementary therapies except chiropractic care. Of all complementary approaches, massage was the most preferred by Veterans. In a national survey, almost two-thirds (61%) of individuals with neck pain who used both complementary and conventional treatments perceived complementary to be more helpful, whereas only 6% perceived conventional treatments to be better. Objectives: The Trial Outcomes for Massage: Caregiver-Assisted vs.#46; Therapist-Treated (TOMCATT) Study is a 2-arm, parallel group, randomized clinical trial that will last 6 months. The TOMCATT Study will target 264 Veterans with chronic neck pain and will compare therapist-treated massage to a waitlist control arm on primary, secondary, and exploratory outcomes. There was previously an additional group staff randomized 102 Veterans and their Care Allies to, but are no longer randomizing into this group. Methods: This study sample will include 264 Veterans with chronic neck pain. Patients from the 5 primary care clinics at the Roudebush VA Medical Center (RVAMC) and 3 community based outpatient clinics (Terre Haute, Martinsville, and Bloomington) will be recruited to participate. The Trial Outcomes for Massage: Caregiver-Assisted vs.#46; Therapist-Treated (TOMCATT) Study will be a 2-arm, parallel group, randomized clinical trial. Eligible participants will be randomized to one of two study arms: 1) Patients in the therapist-treated arm will receive 3 months of twice weekly massage delivered by certified massage therapists. The second and comparator arm will be a waitlist control. The trial will last 6 months and compare therapist-delivered massage to control on neck pain outcomes. The investigators will compare changes in pain-related disability (primary outcome) between the two groups (Aim 1) and examine secondary outcomes: pain severity, quality of life, depression, anxiety, and stress (Aim 2) as well as exploratory outcomes. To examine the implementation potential of the intervention, including facilitators and barriers, the investigators will conduct post-study, in-depth qualitative interviews of a subsample of study participants (Veteran patients and caregivers) the massage group and the no-longer enrolling CAM group(Aim 3). Lastly, the investigators will assess treatment fidelity and compare the relative intervention costs and budget impact for both interventions. The intervention period will last for 3 months, after which time Veterans will be followed for an additional 3 months. Innovation: The TOMCATT Study is a novel extension of the investigators' prior work, has strong implementation potential, and innovates by placing caregivers in a treatment delivery role that has the potential to reach a greater number of Veterans with chronic neck pain while also producing substantial cost-savings. Although studies have shown that massage is effective for pain, caregiver-delivered strategies have not been tested or implemented in any systematic way across VA.

Arms & Interventions


Experimental: Therapist treated massage (TT-M)

Participants randomized to the therapist-treated massage (TT-M) arm will receive a standardized Swedish massage protocol tailored to chronic neck pain. Massage sessions will involve a maximum of 60 minutes of hands-on, table time and occur twice a week (a frequency which balances practicality and efficacy) for 3 months.

No Intervention: Wait list control (WL-C)

Participants in the waitlist control will be instructed to continue their medical care as normal and to not begin any massage treatment during the 6 months of the study. At the competition of the final 6 month outcome, participants in the control arm will be eligible to attend a caregiver training session and receive a complementary massage session from a TOMCATT study therapist.


Other: - Therapist treated massage

Participants randomized to the therapist-treated massage (TT-M) arm will receive a standardized Swedish massage protocol tailored to chronic neck pain. Massage sessions will involve a maximum of 60 minutes of hands-on, table time and occur twice a week (a frequency which balances practicality and efficacy) for 3 months.

Contact a Trial Team

If you are interested in learning more about this trial, find the trial site nearest to your location and contact the site coordinator via email or phone. We also strongly recommend that you consult with your healthcare provider about the trials that may interest you and refer to our terms of service below.

Indianapolis, Indiana




Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202-2884

Site Contact

Linda A Collins, BS CRA

[email protected]

(317) 988-2722