Posture, Low Back Pain, and Massage
Heather Apr 11, 2015
Lower back pain is one of the most common types of discomfort that we see in our studio. Everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their lives and those who find themselves in constant pain will seek out many different types of therapies to try and alleviate some of the discomfort.
Low back pain has as many causes as people it affects. Sometimes low back pain is caused by bad posture, arthritis or weak core muscles. In severe cases, low back pain comes from specific injuries or illnesses such as compression fractures or bacterial infections. In those cases, seeking immediate medical attention is key to finding relief. But those cases are unusual and not something that affects the majority of low back pain sufferers. In the more mundane, less severe cases, massage can work wonders.
A good Massage Therapist will be able to tell if you have back pain just by looking at your posture. There are several different stances that people with low back pain usually take to try and protect their low back and keep it from hurting. This decreased range of motion is a tell tale sign that something is definitely hurting in the lower lumbar region of the spine.
In the above photographs you can see two different positions where it is clear the low back is bothering the person. In picture A the pelvis is tilted backward, pushing the low back outward and forcing the head forward to compensate. This shortens the muscles in the lower back and keeps it tight and ridged. This posture also indicates weakened abdominal muscles. In picture B you can see a bend in the knees and a forward pelvic tilt. This tightens the abdominals and protects the psoas which can be the main cause of low back pain from the front of the body. Both of these positions put stress on the spine and the muscles that support it. In picture C you can see what a normalized posture looks like with the spine in a good resting position. Seeing the first two postures will instantly let your massage therapist know that something is definitely going on in the lower lumbar region.
During your massage your therapist may decide to use towels or bolsters to help position your body correctly on the table so that they can work fully and deeply into the lower back region to give you the fullest relief of your pain, without causing you more discomfort. There are also several stretches your therapist might use in conjunction with the manual manipulation of massage. As always, if a movement or position causes you pain, let your therapist know so that they can adjust their technique to fit your body's needs!
Once the massage is over you might notice a great deal of change in not only your pain level, but your posture as well! With chronic back pain, this might take several sessions to get the full benefit of the massage, but keep with it! You will begin to see that the lower back's soft tissues become more pliable, the range of motion wider. The guarding stances that you had at the beginning of the treatment will become obsolete and your posture will improve as well!
The key to good posture is that your ears, shoulders and hips should line up. Making sure to keep this posture during long sessions at the computer or when bending over is essential to maintaining your spine's health. Strengthening your core muscles so that they can keep the body in correct form is also an important aspect to staying pain free. Never discount the part your spine plays in your muscle health.
If you are looking for stretches you can do at home between massages there are a few suggested below. Be sure to talk with your massage therapist to see if these stretches are right for your specific needs!
A great over all stretch is Yoga's Downward Facing Dog pose. For more information and a full description of how to do this pose, check out this article from YogaJournal.com. Another good stretch for the overworked lower back is the child's pose, it's very gentle and can be modified for people with other areas of concern. For more information and a full description of how to do this pose, check out this article from YogaJournal.com.
There are certainly many other stretches your Massage Therapist can recommend to you after your session as well as a discussion of the daily habits that are causing the stress on the lower back to begin with.
If you find yourself suffering from lower back pain be sure to come visit your Massage Therapist! You will certainly notice a big difference after the first massage. With continued treatments alongside a safe and healthy stretching routine for between your massages, you may begin to see a permanent difference in your day to day pain levels!