Do you experience excruciating back pain every time you sit down or stand up? Does it hurt to walk, with every step you take? Do you dread going to bed every night knowing even turning over onto your side can be agony? And what can be worse than trying to get out of bed every morning? Only someone who suffers from back pain knows how debilitating it can be – more so if it is a chronic condition.
There can be many different reasons for having back pains – including spondylitis, slipped disc, lumbago, osteoarthritis, pinched nerves, curvature of the spine, and more. Back pains can also be caused by injuries and become a chronic condition. But when your back pain is really severe, you stop caring about the cause and all you can think of is to get relief from the pain.
Although your physician may recommend pain killers and physiotherapy, know that these options usually don’t give immediate relief. And when you’re in pain, you don’t want to wait to feel better.
An effective tool to obtain quick relief from back pain is massage. Since it is a low risk, non-invasive form of therapy, it can be very effective in treating back pains, provided it is practiced by a qualified, experienced massage therapist.
The origins of massage
Exactly what is massage? And how did it gain recognition as a form of therapy to relieve pain? Here is a simple definition of massage to help you understand how it works:
*’Massage is one of the ancient arts of wellness. First mentions of massage occurred in China in 2700 BCE, but it was not long before it spread to the Middle East, Greece, and India. Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. The goal of this manipulation is to promote relaxation and stress relief while easing pain and promoting an overall feeling of wellness. Physically speaking, massage also increases oxygen and blood flow to muscles, which can, in turn, promote the brain’s release of serotonin, the relaxation chemical.
More and more people are turning to massage therapy to treat their chronic pain. Muscles that are overused or used incorrectly can become shortened and bound to other tissues in the body. These adhesions can cause weak muscles, tendinitis, and compressed or trapped nerves. All of these consequences can be addressed through massage, but not all styles of massage are good for all types of pain.’
5 best massages for back pain
Now we all know what is massage. But do you know how many different techniques there are, to deal with a variety of health issues? And there are specific techniques that are particularly effective for back pains, many of them originating in the Far East. So, once you identify the type of back pain you have, the point where the pain originates from (shooting pains at the base of your neck or sharp stabbing pains in your lower back?) and what causes it, you can decide on the best massage technique to opt for.
1. Swedish Massage: This is actually the most popular massage technique, and has also provided the basis for many other techniques. It aims to heal by applying a variety of strokes, ranging from mild to moderate to deeper ones, on areas of stress, stiffness, injuries and pain, all over your body.
Swedish massage is particularly effective in helping you relax, releasing stress and offering relief from back pain. In this technique, the therapist’s hands knead, glide, and tap, using friction and shaking. And contrary to popular belief, Swedish massage did not originate in Sweden, but in Holland!
2. Deep Tissue Massage: This technique is not for the fainthearted. It involves going deeply into every sore muscle in your body, trying to reach as far as possible to the bone through your muscles. This in turn helps release scar tissue while relaxing tightly knotted muscles which cause chronic upper back and neck pain.
When you are being treated with a deep tissue massage session, you must provide continuous feedback on what you’re experiencing. If you’re in any pain, do tell your therapist so that the level of intensity can be adjusted to help release your knotted muscles gently. The massage can begin with a gentle touch with increasing pressure as you adjust to the intensity.
If you have been suffering chronic pain as a result of scar tissue build-up, or if you have stiff, painful regions in your shoulders, neck and back, then you will benefit from deep tissue massage treatments. You may have a few days of soreness following the massage, but a warm Epsom salt bath will provide relief.
3. Neuromuscular therapy or Trigger Point Myotherapy: Bears some similarity to deep tissue massage and releases areas of strain, known as ‘trigger points’ in the muscles, which cause muscular pains. When a muscle is overstrained, the area of hypersensitivity is considered a trigger point. As with deep tissue massage, you may experience some pain when the procedure begins.
Alternating degrees of concentrated pressure are applied on the areas affected by muscle spasms, using the fingers, knuckles, or elbow. The pressure applied to a muscle spasm must remain constant for at least ten to thirty seconds.
4. Effleurage (smooth rhythmic stroking): This is a therapeutic technique that you can try at home with the help of a friend. You need to ensure the right environment and tools i.e. a quiet room, a comfortable bed or mat, massage oil, towels and cushions. There are a number of techniques that can be applied.
Apply warm oil with both hands, stroke upwards from the lower back going up to the neck, then gently come back down to the lower back. Another technique is to use the heels of the hands, moving in circles, starting from the lower back, moving outwards and then upwards, eventually returning to the center. There are variations to this technique in which you can use just the fingers, or only the thumbs.
5. Shiatsu: With its origins rooted in Japan (and traditional Chinese medicine), Shiatsu is based on the premise that our bodies are made up of Qi, or energy, which get blocked and cause ill health. This technique involves using hands, thumbs, knees, elbows or feet, to apply pressure on the meridians (pressure points) in our bodies. And also rotates and stretches your joints and limbs.
In addition to improving circulation and reducing stress, Shiatsu promotes healing and relieves pain from injuries, arthritis, backaches, sciatica, stiff shoulders and neck. It offers multiple benefits for your mind and body.
You can now feel secure in the knowledge that you have a number of massage options to get relief from back pain. Just do some research and figure out which one works the best for you.