Massage Therapy for Back Pain

Massage Therapy for Back Pain

Massage therapy can help your back pain. However, it can also exacerbate it. I worked as a massage therapist for over ten years and have had hundreds of massages myself. In this article, I will discuss massage therapy and how it can help and increase one’s back pain. The common theme with back pain and recovery is that all back injuries are unique, have unique injury mechanisms, and must be treated individually. What makes one feel better could hurt another one with seemingly ‘the same’ injury, so this is why an assessment is necessary. Also, different soft tissue treatment modalities can be helpful or hurtful at other times, depending on how acute your injury might be.

How massage therapy can help

Depending on the injury, massage therapy can be beneficial for back pain, primarily if the back pain is located and not running down the leg. In addition, some back pain sufferers have extreme “guarding” of their muscles from the trauma of the vertebrae and discs and greatly benefit from some soft tissue therapy. Addressing the tension in the guarding muscles and postural and movement corrections can prove helpful. But, they all must work cohesively; if you aren’t doing the right things outside the gym/treatment room, a massage here and there isn’t likely to fix you. During my time as an LMT, many clients came to me with this issue, and I could only make them feel better for a short time, and then their pain returned.

How massage can increase your back pain

In contrast to the client who has localized back pain, those who have leg pain/glute pain (not just back pain) might find that massage temporarily has made them feel better, only to feel more ‘wound up and in pain. Especially if the client lacks stability, the massage loosens them up even more, causing more pain. Further, some massage therapists will brutalize their clients, thinking that digging deep into ‘trigger spots’ will fix their client’s nerve pain and herniated discs. Or they are even smashing the client into the table, expecting the muscles and affected area to submit. While this, at times, can address symptoms, it can also wind up one’s pain for days, weeks even months. Unfortunately, most back pain is not caused by ONLY tight muscles; tight muscles are often due to a disc bulge or other than tense muscles.

Back pain and massage therapy: my approach

What I like to do for my recovery, even though my back doesn’t bother me, is to get a massage weekly. I have the areas I want to address for tension and tightness: my neck, head, quads, hips, and shoulders. Finding ways to de-stress can be helpful for anyone, especially those who suffer from back pain. Those too acute to get work done on their back could consider getting their face, and head with light shoulders massaged to relax them. Sometimes the fascia (sheets of connective tissue which envelopes body structures and organs) must be addressed. Addressing fascia can be done with very non-invasive approaches to start, working up to more aggressive ones, which I don’t suggest right away. Another way I’ve found ways to loosen up fascia is by marinating impacted areas in my PRS CBD balm to help calm and relax the area. Again, not THE solution, but potentially part of the solution.

Massage Therapy wrap-up

I understand massage to be very helpful to many people who deal with back pain. But remember, there is more to fixing your back than getting passive treatment once a month. Or, if you’re lucky -weekly. Finding ways to de-stress and not focus on your back injury can be helpful. Even if you get a light or Swedish massage, finding some distraction and relaxation may contribute to the healing process. The best case scenario is reading Back Mechanic, finding out your pain triggers and avoiding them, and then trying soft tissue therapy after the cause(s) of pain are removed and working synergistically.

For those struggling with back pain, there is hope for you. Book a virtual consult with Brian HERE with someone who’s been there. 

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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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