Many pregnant women dread the moment they go into labor and have contractions during their whole pregnancy, especially if they are first time mothers. Most women are most afraid of the pain they think they will experience during labor, and have already decided on medical pain relief options during labor before they ever have contractions. But there are many possibilities that don't involve drugs. Could back massage during labor bring any relief?
Massage is relaxing, and that is true even while you are in labor. Some women experience back labor, in which most of the pressure of contractions is centered around the lower back, and in that case counter pressure can be very comforting indeed. This pressure can be offered by the laboring woman's partner, but also by a birth doula or midwife. Some prenatal classes even go through how to provide back massages during labor.
But, does massage by itself relieve pain? Yes, according to some people who say that massage gives laboring women comfort and makes them feel safe. Massage may actually produce endorfins, which help us feel good. Perhaps this is why Hypnobabies, the self-hypnosis program for childbirth, involves labor partners touching the woman gently (it's not massage, but pretty close) the whole time.
Personally, I would punch anyone who tried to touch me during labor. If you feel the same way, massage during labor won't provide pain relief for you. If touch is comforting for you, massage may well help you.
Back massage gives you a pleasant touch to counteract the negative pressure of contractions, make take your mind off the hard work you are doing, and reminds you that you have the support of your loved ones or healthcare team... Or, back massage may prevent you from getting the epidural anesthesia you really want, and make you want to scream insults at the person doing it. It's certainly an option to explore, though!