If you suffer from back pain you are not alone - 3.7 million Australians suffer from a range of back problems, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2014–15 National Health Survey. That's a staggering 1 in 6 people.
Back pain can range from very minor muscle spasms caused by exercise to chronic and debilitating discomfort. Professional massage offers a safe and easily accessible method to treat, if not resolve, many of these instances. So how does massage actually treat back pain and what types of massage work best?
4 ways massage helps to treat back pain
Massage is a non-invasive, low risk therapy which provides many benefits physically and psychologically. For many people suffering from back pain, both temporary or serious chronic complaints, massage is an accepted method of treating and reducing symptoms along with the underlying issues.
There are four main ways that massage therapy can help to treat back pain:
Professional assessment of the underlying causes of pain
Most massage practitioners are highly trained physical therapists who can help you to assess the possible root causes of your back pain. They can also recommend exercises or changes if appropriately trained, to your daily routine that will help to relieve symptoms in the long term. Experienced massage therapists will also be able to recommend if and when you should see a doctor to treat more serious underlying causes.
Increasing blood flow
By working and manipulating the back muscles, massage encourages increased blood flow to the affected areas of the back. This in turn helps to promote healing, particularly in the case of soreness caused by physical activity or soft tissue injury. Recent research also strongly suggests that massage therapy can help to improve the long term vascular function of both athletes and non active patients.
Endorphins are the chemicals which promote happiness and wellbeing within the brain. They also reduce pain and anxiety. Massage techniques such as acupressure and myotherapy are known to generate increased endorphin levels. This not only helps to make you feel better but also promotes healing within the body.
Excessive muscle tension can cause restricted movement and pain, particularly around the neck or lower back. Massage promotes relaxation of key muscle groups eliminating associated pain and increasing flexibility.
Which types of massage best for back pain?
There are countless forms of massage therapy available in Australia. Each promotes general well being, but some are more effective for treating medical back complaints.
1. Trigger point myotherapy
Also known as neuromuscular therapy, this form of massage is widely recognised as the most effective for lower back pain and soft tissue injury. Trigger point myotherapy involves using alternating levels of concentrated pressure on identified areas of muscle spasm. Pressure is usually applied using the knuckles, fingers or elbows and is sustained for periods of ten to thirty seconds.
This form of massage therapy works by relaxing spasming muscles, allowing the release of stored lactic acid and the return of blood and oxygen flow to the area. The initial result of such a massage may be some temporary soreness, but it should dramatically reduce back pain and increase movement within 24 hours.
2. Swedish Massage
One of the most popular forms of physical therapy and one that people most associate with the term massage, this particular form aims to promote general relaxation and relieve any pain. Swedish massage works by applying gentle force to the affected back area to create a release of muscle tension. It's a technique which focuses on total mental and physical relief. It combines gentle hand pressure and muscle manipulation with the application of essential oils to promote full body recovery.
3. Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue or sports massage uses many of the same techniques as swedish massage. However, as is implied in the name, the pressure applied goes much deeper into the muscle, often as far down as the bone.
This technique helps to release tightly knotted muscles and scar tissue that could be the root of chronic back pain. The massage itself may be quite uncomfortable and you can expect to feel sore for a few days following. However it is very effective at relieving stiff painful neck and back muscles.
Finding the best massage for you
Massage therapy can be an important part of the treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering from back complaints. It is therefore essential that the therapy received is of the highest quality and performed according to industry standards.
With so many advertised massage services available, it can be difficult to distinguish between highly trained practitioners, from more casual offerings. Researching the qualifications and precise techniques provided by different therapists can help you to distinguish between offerings and make an informed choice.
If you are looking for a massage that's right for you, check out the best therapists in your area from the Massage & Myotherapy Australia directory today.