massage for back pain

Back pain is a common issue that affects the daily lives and overall well-being of many people. One effective way to manage and alleviate back pain is through massage therapy. This blog post will explore the benefits of getting a back massage, the best types of massages for back pain, and more. 

What Causes Low Back Pain?

Common causes of back pain include:

  • Non-specific Low Back Pain: Low back pain is often non-specific. This means that rather than being caused by a direct injury to the muscles, joints or ligaments, it can be influenced by other factors related to stress, general day-to-day activities, sleep, and overall quality of life. Usually, episodes of low back discomfort can last around 4-6 weeks. However, it can be alleviated with home care and management techniques including exercise, stretching and lifestyle changes.
  • Muscle Strain: Muscle strains are another common cause of low back pain. These occur when the muscle fibres are torn during muscle elongation. You may experience muscle strain as a result of repetitive movements, lifting heavy loads, or just performing everyday activities with improper form. For example, low back muscle strains can occur if you do not bend your knees when lifting heavy objects. Similarly, twisting or rounding out the back too much while lifting heavy objects can also strain the muscles.
  • Facet Joint Irritation: Facet joints are a part of the spine that helps with movement and stability. Sometimes these joints can become inflamed or irritated. Symptoms can include localized unilateral pain (pain confined to a specific area on one side of the body), and pain when extending and rotating to the same side. Joints in the spine naturally degenerate as we age, which can also lead to low back issues.

Benefits of Getting a Back Massage

Getting a back massage offers numerous benefits, both physical and mental:

  • Pain Relief: Massage therapy can significantly alleviate back pain by reducing muscle tension, improving circulation, and promoting the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. This helps to ease both chronic and acute back pain, providing immediate relief and long-term benefits.
  • Improved Circulation: By increasing blood flow to the affected area, massage helps deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, promoting healing and reducing inflammation. Enhanced circulation also aids in the removal of metabolic waste products from the muscles, which can reduce soreness and speed up recovery.
  • Enhanced Flexibility and Range of Motion: Regular massage can help keep your muscles flexible and improve your range of motion, reducing the risk of further injury. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who engage in physical activities or have jobs that require repetitive movements, as it helps maintain muscle elasticity and joint mobility.
  • Increased Athletic Performance: For athletes, regular massage can enhance performance by reducing muscle tension, preventing injuries, and improving recovery times. It helps maintain peak physical condition and supports the body’s natural ability to heal and adapt to physical stress.

Best Type of Massage for Back Pain

Several types of massages can be effective in alleviating back pain. The best type of massage for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences:

  • Deep Tissue Massage: Deep tissue massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using slow, forceful strokes to address chronic muscle tension and knots. It can significantly reduce chronic pain by addressing the root causes of muscle discomfort. Deep tissue massage helps improve mobility and blood circulation, reduces inflammation, and has a calming effect that helps alleviate stress and anxiety contributing to back pain.
  • Cupping Therapy: This ancient practice involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. The suction helps increase blood flow, reduce muscle tension, and promote healing. Cupping therapy can be particularly effective for relieving deep muscle knots and chronic pain. It enhances circulation and accelerates the healing process, making it an excellent choice for those suffering from persistent back pain.
  • Active Release Technique (ART): ART is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. It involves the therapist using their hands to apply pressure to specific points while the client performs specific movements. This technique helps break down scar tissue, improve range of motion, and reduce pain. ART is highly effective for treating conditions caused by overuse, such as chronic back pain, by targeting and releasing adhesions in the soft tissues.
  • Instrument-Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization (IASTM): IASTM involves using specialized tools to gently scrape and massage the skin, promoting increased blood flow and reducing inflammation. This technique helps break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions, making it an effective treatment for chronic pain and mobility issues. By using instruments to detect and treat soft tissue dysfunction, IASTM can help alleviate back pain by addressing underlying muscle and connective tissue problems.

Improving Posture: The Role of Back Massage 

With any injury, the surrounding structures overcompensate to help the body accomplish a movement while simultaneously creating the least amount of pain. Over time, this can lead to a change in posture. 

Massage therapy can address posture imbalances that occur as a result of low back pain. For example, it is common to see tightness in the legs, especially the quadriceps and the hip flexors, which causes the pelvis to tilt and in turn exacerbate back pain. With tight muscles, there is often also weakness in the core and glutes which are essential for stabilizing the spine and hips.

Regular massage therapy can release tension in these tight muscles, restore balance to the body’s alignment, and strengthen weakened areas, ultimately correcting posture and reducing strain on the back.

Ideal Frequency for Massage Therapy

The frequency of getting a massage for back pain depends on several factors, including the severity of your pain, your overall health, and your specific treatment goals. 

For acute back pain, more frequent sessions—such as once or twice a week—may be beneficial until the pain subsides. For chronic back pain or as part of a maintenance routine, getting a massage once every two to four weeks can help manage pain and prevent it from recurring.

Regular massage sessions can help maintain muscle health, reduce tension, and promote relaxation. However, it’s essential to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare provider or massage therapist to determine the optimal frequency for your individual needs. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your progress and response to treatment.

When to Avoid Back Massage

While massage therapy is generally safe and beneficial, there are certain conditions and situations when it might be best to avoid getting a back massage:

  • Acute Injuries: If you have a recent injury, such as a muscle tear or a severe strain, it’s essential to let the injury heal before receiving a massage. Massage therapy could potentially worsen the injury or delay the healing process.
  • Infections or Inflammation: Avoid getting a massage if you have an active infection, inflammation, or skin condition in the area to be massaged. This includes conditions like cellulitis, open wounds, or severe acne.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis, severe osteoporosis, or bleeding disorders, may make massage therapy unsafe. Always consult with a healthcare provider before getting a massage if you have any underlying health issues.
  • Recent Surgery: If you’ve recently had surgery, especially on your back or spine, it’s crucial to get clearance from your doctor before scheduling a massage.

Complementing Other Back Pain Treatments With Massage

Massage therapy can be an excellent complement to other treatments for back pain, providing a holistic approach to pain management and recovery. Here’s how massage therapy can enhance the effectiveness of other treatments:

  • Exercise and Stretching: Incorporating massage therapy into an exercise and stretching routine can help prevent injuries, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance overall performance. Massage helps keep muscles flexible and reduces the risk of strain during physical activity.
  • Physiotherapy: Combining massage with physiotherapy can enhance the benefits of both treatments. Massage can help relax muscles and reduce pain, making it easier to perform physiotherapy exercises and stretches. This can lead to improved flexibility, strength, and overall function.
  • Chiropractic Care: Massage therapy can complement chiropractic care by loosening tight muscles and reducing tension around the spine. Chiropractic techniques such as active release therapy, functional range conditioning, and the Graston technique can further enhance the benefits. 
  • Acupuncture: When combined with acupuncture, massage therapy can enhance pain relief and relaxation. Acupuncture targets specific points to reduce pain and promote healing, while massage addresses muscle tension and circulation, providing a comprehensive approach to pain management.
  • Shockwave Therapy: Shockwave therapy uses high-energy sound waves to promote healing and reduce pain. When combined with massage therapy, it can help enhance the effects by improving blood flow, reducing muscle tension, and accelerating tissue repair. Massage helps prepare the muscles for shockwave therapy and aids in the overall recovery process.

By integrating massage therapy with other treatments, individuals can achieve more comprehensive and effective pain management, leading to improved quality of life and faster recovery from back pain.

Don’t Let Back Pain Be a Life Sentence

Massage therapy is a valuable tool for managing and alleviating back pain. By understanding the benefits of different types of massages and how they can help, you can make informed decisions about incorporating massage therapy into your pain management routine.

If you’re experiencing back pain and looking for relief, consider massage therapy at Miller Health in Orillia. Your massage therapist will assess and treat the specific factors that contribute to your back pain and get you back on the road to recovery. Don’t wait for your pain to ‘go away on its own’. Contact us today to book your first massage therapy session with Nina, RMT!

nina perlas rmt millerhealth
Written by: Nina Perlas, Registered Massage Therapist

Similar Posts