Back problems? Have a massage!
Unfortunately back pain is common and affects most people at some point during their lives. It is often triggered by lifting something incorrectly, sitting badly, sleeping awkwardly, bending, having a fall, stress or from sustaining a sporting injury. This is known as acute (sudden onset) lower back pain. In most cases it is not due to a serious disease or a chronic back problem. Chronic back pain is measured by duration - pain that persists for more than 3 months and is often progressive. As with acute back problems, the cause of the pain can be unclear and this is known as non-specific lower back pain. The pain can range from mild to severe. This is the most common form of back discomfort in adults and the type of back problem I often see and treat regularly.
The lower back
The spine is made up of many bones called vertebrae, they are roughly circular and between each vertebra is a disc. These discs act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to be flexible. The soft tissues around the spine play a major role in non-specific lower back pain. A large and complex group of muscles work together to support the spine which helps the body stay upright and allows the trunk of the body to move, twist and bend in all directions. Strong ligaments, known as the facet joints, also attach to adjacent vertebrae to give extra support and strength to the spine. When the facet joints, the actual vertebrae or discs become injured or inflamed, the large back muscles can spasm and cause lower back pain as well as limited movement.
How massage can help
A review (2008) of all the trials assessing the effectiveness of massage therapy in patients with non-specific lower back pain was published in The Cochrane Library and can be viewed here. The conclusions suggest that massage is beneficial for patients with sub-acute and chronic back pain, especially if combined with exercise and delivered by a licensed therapist. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) also recommends that manual therapy can be used to treat persistent lower back pain.
I use the Deep Tissue Massage technique to alleviate pain, muscle spasm, discomfort and stress by manipulating the soft tissue. This also releases toxins from the muscles, allowing the blood and oxygen to flow properly. When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, there are usually adhesions. These are fibrous bands of painful and rigid tissue in muscles, tendons, and ligaments that can cause pain, inflammation, block circulation and limit movement. Deep tissue massage is effective as it physically breaks down adhesions to relieve pain and restore mobility.
Deep Tissue Massage strokes are applied using direct pressure with the fingers, knuckles, forearms and sometimes the elbows for penetration of the deep tissue. Friction is applied across the grain of the muscles and this helps to iron out the knots and tension points.
During the treatment you may feel some discomfort so please always let me know if you are outside your pain threshold. You may also feel soreness after the massage, but this will ease the following day and leave you feeling relaxed and a lot more mobile!
Good back care can reduce your risk of getting lower back pain. Here are some tips to keep your back in a healthy condition:
- Take regular exercise - walking and swimming are particularly beneficial
- Try to keep your stress levels to a minimum
- Bend from your knees and hips, not your back, especially when lifting
- Try to maintain good posture - keep your shoulders back and don't slouch!
Monday, 26 November 2012