Bones, joints, and muscles
What can massage therapy really do for your back pain?
If done correctly, massage therapy can work wonders for people with back pain. It may not always
be the best choice, and it may not work for everyone. But most people will get
great results if the massage therapist has a good understanding of the human
body, muscle imbalances, and how to work with them. A word of caution: massage
therapy should never be considered a substitute for proper medical attention.
As a massage therapist, I have watched
massage therapy grow in popularity and credibility to the point where the practice
is now commonplace for those who suffer from back pain. There is no denying
the positive effects massage can have on the body. Most massage therapists use
a variety of techniques during a session such as energy techniques and stretching,
along with traditional massage. The Touch Research Institute at the University of
Miami has coordinated more than 100 studies documenting the therapeutic effects
of massage. One study on massage and back pain found that massage decreased
back pain and depression while also
improving sleep and range of motion for most joints.
What to look for in a massage therapist
As in many other professions, there are varying degrees of training and
qualifications a massage therapist can
have. It is up to you to find one who is trained in techniques that actually
address back pain issues. Some of the more popular styles of massage for back
pain are orthopedic massage, medical massage, and something called St. John's Technique.
It would also be a good idea to look for a massage
therapist who has comprehensive knowledge of muscle imbalances relating to back
How does massage therapy provide relief?
You probably have heard that massage improves circulation, right? But exactly
what does that mean? Throughout our bodies we have a clear fluid called lymph that
circulates around the body tissues. At the same time, we may have inflammation,
which is an immune response to injury or infection that causes pain, redness,
heat and swelling in the affected area — in our muscles, around our muscles, even
in our joints. When lymph and inflammation start to accumulate in the body, the
excess fluid will put pressure on blood vessels and our circulation will
decrease, limiting blood flow to that area. As the pressure increases, it irritates
the nerves, which will cause you to have pain. By helping the body remove excess
lymph and inflammation, massage therapy can make your blood flow better, reducing
the pressure irritating the nerves. This will, in turn, get rid of your pain.
And as if that were
not enough, massage provides a number of other benefits: it relaxes the muscles,
improves range of motion, improves sleep, and increases the production of
endorphins that improve your mood. Is it any wonder you feel like a
million bucks after a massage?
Is massage all you need to get relief?
As helpful as it is,
massage has a very limited scope and cannot fully address your condition. It's
great for removing inflammation and providing relaxation, but back pain is a
physical condition that requires a physical solution. Sure, a massage therapist
may stretch your body a little. But that's not a substitute for identifying
muscle imbalances and postural dysfunctions and developing a very
specific and very targeted action plan to correct them in order to restore
the body's harmony.
If massage is part
of an overall plan that includes working with a trained expert in muscle
imbalances and postural dysfunctions, you may be on to something.
Unfortunately, most people don't go this route. In my opinion, the ones who do
will get the best and fastest results.
Is massage right for everyone?
Of course not. There
are a number reasons why massage might not be right for you. Please review this
list as you consider massage as an option.
|Massage may not be right for you if you
If you've had a
If you are
- on prescription meds
If you have
All massage sessions are one-on-one, which gives you the
opportunity to converse with the therapist and to get the
personal attention you need to get results. You can ask questions
about how you compare with other people. Feel free to ask
the therapist what approach he or she will be taking so you
know what to expect. The massage therapist has many different
techniques to use in order to deal with your back pain, and
some are better than others.
Sometimes a massage therapist can get distracted with other
problem areas. It is in your best interest to keep the therapist
focused on your back and associated ailments. You may need
to try several different therapists before finding the one
that works best for you—and with you.
About the Author:
Steve Hefferon, CMT, PTA, is co-founder of The Healthy Back Institute. For more
information on our complete healing formula and how to treat back pain
effectively, read the latest Back Pain Advisory from The Healthy Back
Institute. You can get a free copy of it at www.losethebackpain.com.