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Oh, My Aching Back!

More than 100 million Americans suffer from lower-back pain, and nearly 25 billion dollars is spent in search of relief annually. A 2003 study shows that massage therapy produces better results and reduces the need for painkillers by 36 percent when compared to other therapies, including acupuncture and spinal manipulations*.

Therapeutic massage can indeed be an effective way to ease the pain of a wide variety of spinal conditions including: muscle tension, spasms, inflammation, aches, stiffness and pain. A skilled massage therapist will knead, rub and manipulate the affected muscles to increase blood flow (circulation) throughout the body. This will deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and helps eliminate any acids or other waste products that accumulates in the affected area. The outcome is pain relief.

Here are some tips on how to massage away that pain in your back:

  • Make sure the massage therapist you use for your back pain has received training from an accredited school and that they have completed 500 hours of training.
  • If you’ve been injured during exercise of some type, consider a sports massage. Sports massage promotes both flexibility and relieves deep muscle tightness and strains.
  • For acute pack pain, request a deep tissue massage, but be prepared for an aggressive massage designed to liberate muscle fiber and detoxify the muscle tissue. There may be a slight level of discomfort, but it should not feel too uncomfortable. The therapist should check in with you during the treatment to determine if the pressure it right, “Should I go deeper, stay at the same level or even go somewhat lighter?”
  • Try a massage that alternates hot and cold treatments to alleviate back pain caused by sprains.
  • A hot stone massage can be very effective as the stones transfer heat into your body, allowing the therapist to work more effectively.
  • For a quick and temporary fix, look at investing in a hand-held home massager to take away minor pain. This will not provide all the benefits of a professional massage therapist but it will help you in a pinch.

Always remember, not all types of massage is appropriate for all types of back pain. A deep tissue massage is potentially not a good idea for someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or other degenerative diseases; however, a lighter touch massage would be appropriate. Be sure to always discuss the techniques to be used by the massage therapist, before beginning the massage session. If you have acute back pains, you should also consult your physician before beginning any massage therapy program.

At Elements Therapeutic Massage, our therapeutic approach is designed to match you with the therapist and the specific technique that’s best for your unique health and wellness situation. We also use a proprietary numbering system that indicates the level of work a therapist does, which is very important when dealing with back pain.

*Annals of Internal Medicine, June 2003

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