Back pain is one of the most common medical ailments affecting adults.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, about 31 million people in the United States have back pain at any given time.
Although pain can develop anywhere in the back, low back pain occurs most frequently. Symptoms of back pain can range from mild to debilitating. Pain may develop suddenly after an injury or develop gradually due to wear and tear.
In some cases, back pain is chronic, which means it is ongoing. Long-lasting back pain can affect all areas of a person’s life including employment. Back pain can lead to increased absences from work and decreased productivity.
Common Causes of Back Pain
Many different factors can cause back pain. Something as simple as picking up a heavy object in the wrong way can lead to back pain. The most common causes of back pain include:
Muscle strain: Muscle strain is one of the most common causes of back pain. Poor posture or awkward lifting can place added stress on the ligaments or muscles in the back, which leads to discomfort.
Bulging discs: The discs in your back act like a cushion or shock absorber for each joint segment in the back. The material inside a disk can leak out and press on the nerves in the back.
Arthritis: Arthritis can lead to painful joints, such as the knees, fingers, and hips. It can also lead to lower back pain due to narrowing of the space around the spinal cord.
Skeletal abnormalities: Skeletal abnormalities can be present since birth or develop later in life. If the spine is irregular, added pressure may be placed on the muscles, ligaments, or nerves.
Trauma: Back pain can also occur as a result of injury to the spine or the back muscles.
Complications of Back Pain
Back pain, especially if chronic, can cause complications. If left untreated, problems with the lower back may lead to pain in other areas of the body. For instance, if your lower back hurts, it may change how you move or walk, which can lead to hip or leg pain.
In some cases, back pain can force you to decrease your activity level. Leisure activities, hobbies, and exercise may be reduced, which can have a negative effect on your quality of life.
Any chronic pain can cause emotional issues. People with chronic pain can develop depression and anxiety. Frustration can also develop if it’s difficult to get the pain under control.
Treatment for back pain may include cortisone injections, surgery, and medications. In some instances, narcotic pain meds are prescribed, which can lead to dependency, causing a whole new set of problems.
Types of Massage Most Effective for Back Pain
Depending on the severity of the pain and the underlying cause, massage therapy can be useful in decreasing back pain. Massage treatment may ease spasms, muscle tension, and stiffness. The most effective type of massage technique may depend on the cause of back pain. The following types of massage may be useful in treating back pain:
Deep tissue massage: Deep tissue massage involves applying direct pressure to the muscles and connective tissue. Manipulation of both the top layer and deeper layers of the muscles is included. Deep tissue massage may be most effective for back pain due to a muscle strain. Because it involves direct and firm pressure, it may not be comfortable for people with arthritis in their spine.
Myofascial release: Myofascial release involves manipulation of the fascia, which is the connective tissue surrounding the muscles. The fascia supports the muscles. Myofascial release involves massaging and stretching the fascia, which may decrease pain and tension.
Swedish massage: Swedish massage involves combining deep pressure in one direction with light manipulation in the other to promote relaxation of the muscle. It can reduce stiffness and soreness in the muscles of the back. It may also be helpful to decrease inflammation and improve circulation in back muscles.
Quadratus lumborum muscle massage: The quadratus lumborum muscle connects the pelvis to the last rib. It plays a role in pelvic stability and keeping your spine in correct alignment. The muscle can become irritated, which is a common cause of lower back pain. Massage and stretching of the muscle can decrease tension and reduce back pain.
If you have chronic back pain, it’s helpful to see your doctor or back pain specialist to determine the underlying cause. Massage therapy for back pain is usually safe for most people, but there may be instances when it is not recommended.
It’s also essential to talk to your massage therapist and provide an explanation of your symptoms. Your therapist may recommend certain types of massage depending on the severity of your pain. Be sure to also mention additional symptoms, such as numbness or tingling.
Massage can be helpful in decreasing back pain. But it’s important to remember; it’s only one part of an overall plan to keep your back healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise including core work, along with proper lifting and posture are also vital to keep your back strong and pain-free.