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Treating Low Back Pain with Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy

Back pain can begin from a simple gesture like bending over to pick up a pencil, or from a complex, rotating movement like a golf swing. However it happens, the result is the same: you’re in agony. The pain has not resolved in weeks. What now? What are your options? Back pain can be debilitating in that it impairs one’s function and interrupts the flow of life. Many patients find themselves in this unfortunate predicament, and seek comfort and relief through the use of massage therapy.

When a patient experiences back pain, muscle spasms and tightness can make it impossible to perform daily tasks. Activities such as sitting, standing, rising from a chair, or even walking for five minutes can become problematic. In recent years, both patients and health care providers are becoming more aware of the benefits of massage to aid in musculoskeletal pain relief. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, in July of 2014 more than 54 million American adults (17%) had discussed massage therapy with their doctors or healthcare providers and 71% of their doctors or healthcare providers referred them to a physical therapist or recommended massage therapy. Also 54% of adult Americans who had a massage between July 2013 and July 2014 received it for medical reasons such as pain management, soreness/stiffness/spasms, injury rehabilitation or overall wellness.

So what is the best type of massage for low back pain?
Swedish massage, deep tissue, neuromuscular therapy, or orthopedic massage, are some techniques that can help bring comfort and relief to those suffering from low back pain. Finding the right technique may be based on your own previous massage experience and based on the findings from your physical assessment and medical history interview with your massage therapist. While looking at your body’s alignment to see if any structural patterns are contributing to your discomfort you and your massage therapist will discuss what techniques would be appropriate for your sessions.   For those who prefer not to have deep tissue massage, Myofascial Release is a gentle, effective method to create changes in muscle tissue and relieve pain with lasting effects. Another technique that some patients may find beneficial is Trigger Point Therapy. A trigger point is an area of hyperirritability in muscle tissue that can refer pain locally or to a distant location in another muscle. Trigger Point Therapy finds and addresses the area in muscle fiber that is really the source of the discomfort.

One thing to remember is that while therapeutic massage is a valuable tool for patients, in some cases it may be more effective when combined with stretching and exercise, which a physical therapist can provide.

It’s easy to feel depressed when you’re dealing with pain day after day. The good news is that while you’re being treated for pain with massage therapy, endorphins are being released during the session assisting your body and mind to feel better as well as decreasing stress.

Reviewed on July 28, 2020

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.