Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability across the globe. Thankfully, few things feel better than a healing touch, and massage has benefits that go beyond just releasing tight muscles. This is your guide to the best massage for lower back pain specifically, as well as the best types of massage that can help with back pain and other pain conditions.
How does massage help with pain?
Massage is one of the ancient arts of wellness. First mentions of massage occurred in China in 2700 BCE, and it was not long before it spread to the Middle East, Greece, and India.
When muscles are overused, the tissues of the body bind and stick to other tissues, like nerves. These tissues need to move freely in order to function properly. This binding creates adhesions that causes shorter, weaker muscles; tendonitis; or entrapped nerves. Without release, these conditions eventually lead to pain.
Other causes that can lead to tense or weak muscles include:
- Improper posture
- Faulty biomechanics
- Compensation for earlier injuries
- Muscle strain
- Ligament sprain
Massage manipulates and releases the soft tissues of the body. The goal of this manipulation is to promote relaxation and stress relief while easing pain. The result of this is an overall feeling of wellness.
Massage improves both pain symptoms and your quality of life. How?
Practically speaking, massage increases oxygen and blood flow to muscles. This increase speeds healing by delivering more nutrients via blood and eliminating harmful, built-up waste.
As your massage therapist works, your brain also releases serotonin and endorphins, the relaxation chemicals. An increase in serotonin causes a corresponding decrease in the perception of pain. Increased serotonin also helps treat mood disorders (e.g. depression), which also play a role in chronic pain.
High-quality regular massage can also improve muscle flexibility and loosen tight connective tissue that may be causing pain.
Although massage for aches and pains may appear costly, it saves money by reducing health-care provider visits, use of pain medications, and costs of treatments. The effects of massage improve when combined with exercise and a good diet. The practical benefits of massage are becoming so clear that many health insurance plans now cover at least a portion of the cost.
Techniques for lower back pain massages
Massage uses a combination of techniques. Which technique your therapist will use depends on the goals of your massage therapy.
Some of the best massage techniques for lower back pain include:
- Effleurage: These are long sweeping strokes from the top of a muscle to the bottom, usually at the beginning or the end of a massage (or both).
- Petrissage: Rolling and kneading the muscles, like kneading bread dough. Pressure can vary according to the client’s sensitivity. The massage therapist may focus attention on a “crunchy” or tense area. They’ll start first with light petrissage and increase the pressure to help the muscle release.
- Tapotement: Light and rhythmic tapping or drumming. This technique can vary in pressure and speed and can be either relaxing or energizing.