a couple of months ago

Here's The Rub - Get A Regular Massage For Back Pain Relief

Getting a massage can be more than just a pleasant and relaxing experience for people with persistent lower back pain. 

Massage for back pain

Everyone loves the feeling that comes from having a good massage right?

As the relaxation, comfort, and peace they bring to you is absolutely amazing.

And for people with persistent back pain, getting a massage can be more than just a pleasant experience. 

As they are also a great way of keeping your back muscles healthy, loose, and pain-free.

Because massaging your body helps to release painful muscle knots and kinks, which allows your body to release any trapped waste and toxins that may be causing damage.

While at the same time opening up pathways to deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your damaged muscles and tissues, which helps them to repair and heal.

So treating yourself to regular massages can really help you to keep your back happy and healthy.

And it's not just your back that benefits, as massage has been shown to be great for you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The Many Health Benefits Of Massage

So what can you expect to gain by going for a massage?

Scientific studies have shown that alongside the release of muscle tension, a good massage can also help you in many other ways.

And I'll take you through some of these benefits now.

You'll Feel More Relaxed

This one might seem obvious but it's a good place to start.

As massages are well known to relax you and make you feel more at ease.

For example, a study for the treatment of elderly patients found that just a gentle hand massage led to significant improvements in both their physical and mental relaxation.

And as relaxing is a great way of reducing pain this is all good for people with back pain.

You'll Experience Less Pain

Releasing tight muscle knots and easing muscle tension through massage is a great way of lowering pain levels in people with chronic lower back pain.

And these pain relieving effects have been shown to be long-lasting too, in some cases keeping pain levels down for between 6 months to a year after the massage treatment has finished.

You'll Be Less Stressed

Massage therapy has been shown to lead to lower stress levels along with reduced blood pressure and heart-rate.

In fact, one workplace study found that even as little as 15 minutes of massage therapy in the workplace led to a significant reduction in blood pressure in the workers afterwards.

And the less stress you feel the less tension you hold within your muscles.

Meaning your back will stay looser and back pain will be less likely.

You'll Sleep Better

The relaxing effects of getting a massage have also been found to improve a person's sleep quality. 

For instance, in one study comparing a group receiving massage therapy to a group receiving relaxation therapy, the massage group reported far fewer sleep disturbances afterwards.

And this is great news for us.

As getting a good night's sleep is crucial for getting rid of persistent back pain.

You'll Improve Physically

Massage has been found to increase the range of motion in athletes as well as people with chronic pain.

And in another study massage therapy was found to lead to greater physical improvements in people with lower back pain than exercise therapy did.

So the physical benefits of massage are real.

Your Balance & Stability Will Get Better As You Age

These physical benefits extend as you age too.

As massage has been found to help elderly patients improve their balance and posture.

And the need to improve posture is not limited to the elderly either.

As spending too much time sitting down can lead to lower back pain and posture problems.

So massage can help to iron out any muscle imbalances and weaknesses that may cause poor posture.

You'll Be Less Likely To Suffer From Headaches

Getting headaches on a regular basis can be really frustrating.

However massage therapy has been shown to lower the amount of tension headaches that people get.

So if you have this problem then getting a massage for your back pain will have a great side benefit for you.

You'll Be Less Prone To Depression

Depression can be a big problem for people with chronic pain and the more depressed people feel the higher their levels of pain get.

So it can be a vicious circle.

However, massage therapy has been shown to be effective at reducing depression among adults both with and without back pain.

So if you need a lift consider getting a massage.

You'll Be Less Likely To Suffer From Anxiety

Studies of people with lower back pain and high anxiety levels found that both their anxiety and pain was significantly lowered after a course of shiatsu massage.

So as you can see you get some great benefits from regular massages.​

And there are many other claimed benefits such as a boosted immune system, increased blood circulation, detoxification and a release of endorphins amongst others.

However these are still lacking in credible scientific evidence so I'll let you make up your own mind on them.

But overall massage can be a great help to those of us with chronic lower back pain.

The Best Types Of Massage For People With Back Pain

Before you decide to go for a massage you need to choose which style will suit you the best.

As there are a few different types of massage therapy and each one has it's own benefits.

And the one you choose needs to work for your specific back pain and feel comfortable for you. 

So here is a quick overview of the most popular kinds of massage for back pain so you can make a decision.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is the most traditional, relaxing, and common form of massage, and the goal is to totally relax the whole body.

This is done by the use of 5 different strokes:

  • Long gliding strokes.
  • Kneading strokes.
  • Light rhythmic tapping.
  • Friction strokes (rubbing with deep circular movements).
  • Vibration strokes (shaking).

Massage oil is also used to help with the movements and these strokes are usually combined with light movement of the joints.

And while the goal of Swedish massage is total muscle relaxation, the strokes can either be light or vigorous depending on what your therapist thinks you need.

So the main benefits of a Swedish massage are:

  • It increases the level of oxygen in the blood and improves circulation.
  • While also increasing muscle flexibility by easing muscle tension.
  • This also energises the body.
  • And it reduces joint stiffness.

Deep-Tissue Massage

While Swedish massage is all about muscle relaxation, deep-tissue massage is more about working the muscles.

As it involves applying more pressure and works on the muscle tendons and surrounding tissues as well as the muscles themselves.

Deep-tissue massage uses similar strokes to Swedish massage but they are applied more slowly and with more pressure.

So be prepared for elbows, knuckles, and thumbs being pushed hard down into your muscles to release deep knots.

Which means this form of massage may not be for everyone.

As it can be uncomfortable and painful at times and can leave you feeling sore and tender for a day or two afterwards.

However, deep-tissue massage is a popular form of massage for people with back pain and athletes recovering from injuries.

As it can really break down and release your tight and stiff muscles.

So what are the main benefits?

  • It's been found to be good for lowering pain levels and increasing physical mobility.
  • While also being good for rectifying posture problems.
  • And it works to relieve osteoarthritis pain.

So while this kind of massage is more painful and goes deeper than a Swedish massage, it could be a good option if the Swedish massage isn't doing enoughto relieve your back pain.

Trigger Point Massage

Trigger point massage works along similar lines to deep-tissue massage.

However, rather than targeting the whole body trigger point massage focuses on specific areas

​This is because we have pressure points running through our muscles in various parts of the body.

And when these trigger points are stressed (triggered) they can lead to muscle knots and pain in the surrounding areas.

However, they can also lead to muscle pain in completely different areas of the body and this can make the cause of your pain hard to detect.

So by working to release tension in the trigger points, your therapist will be aiming to relieve muscle tension in the surrounding areas and in turn reducing your pain levels.

This is done through applying cycles of pressure and release to the specific trigger-points with the aim of deactivating them.

While you lay back and concentrate on trying to remain relaxed through deep-breathing, but also letting the masseuse know if they are hitting the right spot.

So during trigger point massage much more communication is needed.

With the therapist needing to know how intense the pain at that particular trigger-point is and if it is releasing at all.

So like deep-tissue massage this can also be a painful process at times.

However the main benefits are:

  • It can get to the root cause of your problem, so can prevent the pain from returning.
  • And it's great for relieving pain and tension as tight knots release.
  • It can also be good for relieving headaches.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu massage originated from Japan and uses finger pressure to work on various acupressure points around the head and body.

The idea is that these acupressure points are responsible for the flow of energy​ around your body.

And manually manipulating them will remove any blockages which will allow your energy to flow freely.

​This is usually done fully clothed and the massage can be quite an intense one.

But by working deep into the muscles it has been shown to be great for relieving stress and providing deep relaxation afterwards.

Other benefits include:

  • It increases circulation.
  • Pain relief.
  • It aims to provide inner balance by unblocking energy channels.
  • Gives your immune system a boost too.

Thai Massage

Thai massage consists of a full body massage usually starting from the feet and ending at the head.

And like Shiatsu massage this ​is done fully clothed and without oils.

It involves the compression and stretching of your joints and muscles to increase your range of motion and flexibility.

But be warned you will be moved around and manipulated like a rag doll during a Thai massage!

In fact Thai massage is even referred to as 'lazy yoga' by some.

Because you are stretched and manipulated without the need for any effort on your part.

As the masseuse will use their own body and body weight to move you deeper into the various positions.

So expect to be walked on, knelt on, pulled, twisted, poked, prodded, clicked, and cracked!

But as bad as that may sound the result is an intensely pleasurable and relaxing massage.​

And this opens energy lines and remove blockages by releasing your acupressure points similar to Shiatsu massage techniques.

Which can bring you the following benefits:

  • It's good for management of persistent back pain as it provides temporary pain relief.
  • It helps to rid you of fatigue by unblocking energy channels.
  • While also providing you with a general sense of relaxation and well-being.

So you'll feel great after a Thai massage.

Alternatively Learn How To Massage Yourself

I'm sure after reading through the previous sections getting a massage will seem like a great idea.

And it is, as it can really help to keep you loose and rid you of back pain.

But there is one massive downside to getting a regular massage.

And that is the cost.

Because professional massages are not cheap.

And if you want a weekly one then the costs can stack up and be too much for most of us to be able to afford or justify.

However, there are many ways you can learn to massage yourself that can still give you the benefits of massage but at a fraction of the cost.

And I'll take you through some of these now.

1. Use Self-Massage Tools

When you want to massage yourself there are always going to be certain areas that you just can't reach yourself.

Especially in your back area.

And even if you can reach them, it's unlikely that you'll be able to apply enough pressure to be able to release your muscle knots.

But this is where self-massage tools come in.

As they can help you to massage and release your tight muscles in awkward areas.

These include:

These all have their benefits and are helpful in working out your trigger points and relieving muscle pain.

2. The Tennis Ball Technique

There is also a good free option you can try for self-massaging the muscle knots in your back called the tennis ball technique.

This has been widely used by professional dancers and athletes to keep their overworked muscles from tensing and cramping.

And it works on the same principle as trigger point massage.

That is by applying pressure to a trigger point (resting your body weight on the tennis ball) you can release the knot.

Which will open up blocked pathways, increase blood flow to the area, and aid healing.

To do this you need to lie down and trap the tennis ball between your back and the floor.

Then move around on it until you find the point where your muscle pain is.

Now relax your body weight down on to the ball, breathe deeply, and let go.

You should feel ​some pain but it should be 'good' pain', satisfying rather than uncomfortable.

And after a minute or so you should feel the muscle knot begin to spasm and release.

Paul Ingraham at Pain Science has written a more detailed article on how to do this which you can read here.

3. Use A Ball In The Bath Instead

This is similar to the tennis ball technique but done in a hot bath instead.

And it's a good option if the tennis ball feels too hard on your back.

Plus you get the added benefit of the heat of the bath which will help to relax your muscles more deeply at the same time.

So get into the bath, place a ball under your back in the right spot, then relax down onto it.

Obviously a tennis ball isn't going to be ideal to use in the water.

So a better option to go for would be a rubber ball or a dogs toy ball.

Something like the Kong Dog Ball will work well for this purpose.

4. Get Your Partner To Massage You

While having a professional masseuse is obviously the best option, even they will take time to work out exactly what works for you and what you need to help your pain.

So it usually takes a few sessions before they really begin to hit the right spots.

And when you're paying top whack for your massages this can really eat into your budget.

So another option would be to train your partner up to give you the right kind of massage instead.

As there are tons of 'how to' videos on YouTube that walk you through the massage process and how to apply the techniques involved.

And you can guide your partner to really focus on the areas that need releasing and let them know if they are doing it right.

So you get a totally customised massage each time.​

And you can always return the favour afterwards so you both get the benefits of a nice, relaxing massage.

So not only is this a cost effective way of getting a regular massage it can also bring you closer together in your relationship too.

A win-win!

Rounding Up

As you can see getting a massage is far more than just a pleasant and relaxing experience.

Because it also provides many health benefits and can be a big help in getting rid of persistent back pain.

As getting a regular massage can help to:

  • Make you feel more relaxed.
  • Reduce your pain levels.
  • Make you less stressed.
  • Give you a better night's sleep.
  • Improve your physical mobility, stability and balance.
  • Make you less prone to headaches.
  • And less prone to depression.
  • While making you less anxious.

So a good idea all round!

Now there are various types of massage you can go for ranging from a relaxing Swedish massage, a more intense Deep-tissue or Trigger-point massage, or a more holistic massage such as Shiatsu or Thai.

However the cost of getting a professional massage on a regular basis can be out of reach for many people.

Therefore it's also good to learn self-massage techniques so you can still gain the health benefits of massage at a fraction of the cost.

However whatever option you decide to try I hope you can begin to feel some of these benefits of massage for yourself too.

Let me know how you get on in the comments below.

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Daniel

I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.

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