Who over the age of 25 hasn’t experienced back pain at one point in their lives? Back pain can be caused by a number of factors and the resulting pain can be excruciating and debilitating. Even a little back discomfort can often result in postural changes to compensate for the injury, often resulting in a series of other problems as a result. Back pain accounts for $100 billion in lost productivity and health-care costs each year in the United States. Having your back pain properly diagnosed and finding a treatment for your back pain that works can be a difficult task. One natural treatment for back pain that is rapidly gaining legitimacy and popularity is massage therapy.
Massage therapy as an effective treatment for back pain
Whether you’ve strained a back muscle in the garden, by playing golf, or by playing with our children, or if your back pain stems from a long term injury, you’re not alone. Figures indicate that the overwhelming majority of people will endure back pain at one point or another.
Most low back pain doesn’t last long, and lasts a few days to a few weeks. While it can be very disruptive to your normal day to day activities, It tends to heal by itself without any long term damage. Most cases of this type of low back pain are mechanical in nature, meaning that the components of the back (the spine, muscle, discs, and nerves) aren’t working together properly because one or more are injured or traumatized.
While many massage therapists are accustomed to having clients seek them out after conventional medicine fails to bring relief, more and more physicians are referring patients with back pain directly to massage therapists for treatment. Atlanta-based massage therapist Jeremy Waldtraut says approximately 50 percent of his clients come to him with some level of back pain these days and that this number is increasing as word spreads that his massage therapy treatment for back pain is helping clients regain the freedom of movement that comes from a healthy back.
As evidence of the growing popularity of massage therapy for back pain, the August 2005 issue of Consumer Reports cites deep-tissue massage as one of the treatments voted most effective by readers for back pain, while other research from the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami shows that massage can decrease stress and long-term pain, improve sleep and range of motion, and help lower the incidence of depression and anxiety that often accompany back pain.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain is debilitating because each movement of your body requires the spine to function smoothly. When back pain exists, the problem is complicated and multiplied by compensating in ways that avoid the pain. It’s common for sufferers of back pain to have secondary problems related to the movements they’re making due to back pain.
But what’s the cause of most back pain? Unfortunately, given the required cooperation and involvement of the muscular, nervous and skeletal systems, there are many possibilities.
Here are some of the most common:
- Poor posture accounts for, or contributes to, back pain in a staggering number of people. Whether it’s due to wearing high heels, or a less than ideal position in front of a computer screen, on the phone or driving, the result is stress on the back as it attempts to compensate for the unusual loads placed on it.
- Sprains and strains account for most acute back pain. Sprains are caused by overstretching or tearing ligaments, and strains are tears in tendon or muscle. Both can occur from twisting or lifting something improperly, lifting something too heavy, or overstretching. Such movements may also trigger spasms in back muscles, which can also be painful.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration is one of the most common mechanical causes of low back pain, and it occurs when the usually rubbery discs lose integrity as a normal process of aging. In a healthy back, intervertebral discs provide height and allow bending, flexion, and torsion of the lower back. As the discs deteriorate, they lose their ability to cushion movements and shocks.
- Herniated or ruptured discs can occur when the intervertebral discs become compressed and bulge outward (herniation) or rupture, causing low back pain.
- Radiculopathy is a condition caused by compression, inflammation and/or injury to a spinal nerve root. Pressure on the nerve root results in pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation that travels or radiates to other areas of the body that are served by that nerve. Radiculopathy may occur when spinal stenosis or a herniated or ruptured disc compresses the nerve root.
- Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. This compression causes shock-like or burning low back pain combined with pain through the buttocks and down one leg, occasionally reaching the foot.
- A traumatic injury, such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall can injure tendons, ligaments or muscle resulting in low back pain. Traumatic injury may also cause the spine to become overly compressed, which in turn can cause an intervertebral disc to rupture or herniate, exerting pressure on any of the nerves rooted to the spinal cord. When spinal nerves become compressed and irritated, back pain and sciatica may result.
- Skeletal irregularities include scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that does not usually cause pain until middle age; lordosis, an abnormally accentuated arch in the lower back; and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
Not to be trivialized, poor posture, such as that while sitting, can lead directly to a number of painful issues, including back pain. If you spend a significant amount of time slouching over a keyboard, the shoulders roll forward and move up, and the back tightens to support the bent over posture. Perform a little self diagnoses as you’re reading this. If you’re like most, you’re not sitting in an optimal position.
In addition to poor posture, a lack of exercise, arthritis, osteoporosis, a sedentary lifestyle, overuse, pregnancy, kidney stones, fibromyalgia, excess weight, and more can also cause back pain.
Massage Therapy Offers Relief for Back Pain
Those who live with back pain know that many times there are no easy answers for making the pain go away. Alternative therapies such as physical therapy have proven effective for some sufferers, as have chiropractic and acupuncture, but massage therapy is also making a name for itself when it comes to providing relief. In fact, research has shown that massage can be a great friend to the back-pain sufferer.
How effective massage therapy for back pain is depends on the primary cause of the pain. If it is primarily muscular in nature, then massage can have a great positive impact on muscle tightness and muscle spasms. If it’s caused by a joint alignment issue or one of the skelatal issues listed above, then the role of massage might be somewhat different, such as helping to address the biomechanical imbalances that make things worse, but massage won’t be able to get pressure off the nerve directly.
Find a Massage Therapist to Treat your Back Pain
If you’re suffering from back pain and you’d like to try massage, you’ll want to find massage therapists with proper training and experience. Therapists familiar with back pain mechanisms and massage techniques to address them will be much more effective in bringing you relief. While Swedish massage techniques that focus on relaxation can calm superficial pain receptors near the skin surface, deeper techniques such as deep tissue massage or neuromuscular massage will be better in reaching deeper tissues, ligaments, joint capsule and nerves. To find a highly trained and experienced therapist, use the MassageBook.com massage therapist directory which allows you to view individual massage therapist’s educational backgrounds and experiences and will allow you to filter therapists by the techniques they offer. Read through each individual’s reviews and you’ll soon find a capable massage therapist.
Massage can help
When it comes to treating back pain, you have a variety of options. Some approaches will be more effective than others, depending on your specific case. Ultimately, massage, and its many benefits, might be the answer you’re looking for. For back pain sufferers, Massage can help create a state of deep relaxation in muscles and improve range of motion and circulation to the affected tissues. Not only can massage help directly with back pain, it can help indirectly by releasing hormones that promote an overall sense of well being and will let you endure the healing process with a smile on your face.