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Massage for Lower Back Pain

What’s the Best Massage for Lower Back Pain?

Question: 

I’ve been having a dull ache in my lower back for the past couple of weeks. I went to a chiropractor, but he said there’s no problems with my spine. I thought maybe it was related to the fact that I sit at a desk all day. I’ve been reading a lot lately about standing desks, so I thought I would try one out, but that didn’t really help the problem. If anything, it got worse. Is there a specific massage out there that could help me?

Answer:

In recent years, the medical establishment has warmed to the use of massage therapy as effective treatment for chronic back pain.[i] The treatment is non-invasive, and you can get a massage in the comfort of your own home, at a time that is convenient for you. While getting a massage may not necessarily eliminate or cure your back pain, in most cases it won’t make the problem worse and may even offer you significant relief.[ii]

Chronic low-back pain affects nearly 80 percent of all adults at some point in their lives.[iii] Most low-back pain is triggered by a specific injury or issue, and goes away in a few weeks without medical or therapeutic intervention.[iv] But if your pain persists, or gets worse, you may need further treatment to alleviate the problem.

Massage therapy is an excellent choice because of the relative convenience and its gentle nature. If you’ve never had a massage before, a relaxing Swedish massage is a good introduction. With a Swedish massage, the therapist uses long, gliding strokes to relax your muscles and improve your circulation. They’ll use circular pressure to gently work out any knots in your muscles that may be the source of your pain.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine tested the results of a 10-week treatment of weekly massage on a group of 401 patients between 20 and 65 years of age who had chronic low-back pain.[v] Some patients were given Swedish massages while others were given deep tissue massage, another type of massage that uses more intense pressure to release chronic tension in the deepest layers of your muscle tissue. After 10 weeks, both groups had similar results, and both felt more relief than patients whose back pain had been treated using more traditional treatment. However, the group given deep tissue massage did report slightly better results, and those results tended to last longer.[vi] If you decide to try deep tissue massage, keep in mind that this is a more intense experience than a Swedish massage. Let your therapist know if you experience any discomfort.

You’ll get the most benefit from massage therapy if you include it as a regular part of your pain management, along with other treatment and assistance from your regular doctor. You may want to schedule weekly massages for a couple of months and constantly monitor your results. While any certified massage therapist will be able to treat you, you may want to consider rebooking with the same therapist each time. This is especially true if you’re getting deep tissue massage, because they’ll become familiar with the specific areas of your back that need more work than others.

References:

[i] Spine Health: “Can Massage Help Your Back Problem?” https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/massage-therapy/can-massage-help-your-back-problem

[ii] Id.

[iii] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet” https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet

[iv] Id.

[v] Annals of Internal Medicine: “A Comparison of the Effects of 2 Types of Massage and Usual Care on Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3570565/

[vi] Id.

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