Chronic and subacute lower back pain can quickly suck the joy from your days, weeks, months or even years. But the good news is lower back pain doesn’t have to sideline you. Certain treatments signify hope, help and healing for millions of back pain sufferers, whether it’s newly onset or a long term condition.
But what’s the best way you can go about treating back pain? Well, today most health practitioners agree that lower back pain relief is just a massage away…
WHAT RESEARCH TELLS US
When researchers at the Group Health Research Institute recruited 401 patients (mostly middle-aged females) with lower back pain, they discovered that massage was the best way to treat pain. The patients that received a series of either relaxation or structural massage were better able to work and be more active than those getting “standard medical care” – in other words painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or muscle relaxants.
Lead researcher Daniel Cherkin admits that while he went into the study confident that structural massage would make a difference, he was surprised by the results of relaxation massage. The results from both forms of massage were really strong, with more than one third of those receiving either type of massage reporting their back pain was much better or gone, compared to only one in 25 patients who received standard care.
Six months after initial treatments, both types of massage were still linked to improved body function.
Another study, conducted at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, found that “massage lessened lower back pain, depression and anxiety, and improved sleep. The massage group also showed improved range of motion as well as higher levels of serotonin and dopamine levels”.
Research into massage for lower back pain relief is extensive, and it tells us that:
- Massage improves blood circulation, which aids in recovery of muscle soreness from physical activity.
- Massage offers long-lasting effects, with the benefits of massage therapy lasting as long as one year following the end of active treatment.
- Massage stimulates the lymphatic system.
- Massage reduces the release of stress hormones.
- Massage improves skin tone.
- Massage encourages heightened mental alertness.
This research provides fairly robust support for the analgesic effects of massage for nonspecific chronic and subacute lower back pain. Yet surprisingly, massage is often viewed as adjunctive therapy to help prepare a patient for exercise or other interventions, and is rarely administered as a main treatment solution.
MASSAGE AS THE MAIN TREATMENT
Remedial massage therapy can be utilised as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to nonspecific lower back pain, and is also as an effective standalone therapy where the precise soft tissue mechanisms and etiology are known.
One frequent cause of lower back pain, for example, is the presence of active myofascial trigger points (TrPs) in the quadratus lumborum, multifidi, gluteus medius and psoas major muscles. Massage therapists are trained to assess and treat TrPs using a variety of manual techniques, as well as address restrictions and shortening in the myofascia.
Given the prevalence of connective tissue induration in muscle fibre – particularly in the lower multifidus triangle – the effect of soft tissue mobilisation in the prevention and rehabilitation of lower back pain is significant.
HOW MASSAGE WORKS
Massage provides a healing treatment that can be either gentle or strong, deep or shallow, depending on what the clients individual needs are. When muscles and tendons become damaged, impaired, knotted, tense or immobile, massage holistically treats the whole body and traces the discomfort as far back as possible to the original cause. This essentially means that instead of just masking the symptoms of pain, massage works to solve the entire disorder.
There are several massage techniques used to reduce lower back pain and other body pain, including:
Myotherapy – used to treat or prevent soft tissue pain and restricted joint movement caused by muscle or myofascia dysfunction, musculoskeletal conditions, postural conditions, and sporting and occupational injuries.
Remedial – encourages healing of injured soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Therapeutic – also known as ‘Swedish’ massage, it’s used to promote relaxation and improve blood circulation.
Aromatherapy – when essential oils are added to massage oil to draw from their particular therapeutic properties.
Shiatsu – an oriental technique that aims to improve energy flow by working certain points on the body.
Sports – a blend of techniques that aim to enhance performance and help overworked muscles to recover quickly.
WHO DOES MASSAGE HELP?
The reality is that 80 percent of people will experience lower back pain during some stage of their life. It’s one of the most common reasons for people missing work and seeing a doctor or physiotherapist. Lower back pain can be the cause of neglected back care, a pinched nerve, a herniated disc (slipped disc), back muscle pain, ligament strain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis. Sometimes, it’s nonspecific and just a part of everyday life.
Lower back pain is common, and this is the result of there being so many causes for lower back pain. Massage will help you get to the root of the problem, so that you can be given a diagnosis specific to you. A good massage therapist will detect the initial problem and point you in the direction of proper back care. It can also be used as a management plan to stop pain returning.
Suffering from lower back pain? Don’t let it sideline you, and whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to a massage therapist today to learn how they can help you.