Low back pain affects one out of every seven people in the United States.
Traditionally, pain management has focused on drug therapy and surgery. But
these therapies are not always effective for the 60-90% of low back pain
problems that are stress or work-related. According to a recent study, massage,
practiced for centuries as a healing therapy, may offer some hope. Practitioners
of massage therapy believe it alleviates pain by affecting changes in the
musculoskeletal, circulatory, and nervous systems.
In a Canadian study of massage for low back pain, researchers found that 63%
of those receiving Comprehensive Massage Therapy (CMT) from experienced
registered massage therapists reported no pain after just two months of
treatment. CMT uses a variety of massage techniques in combination with
exercise, and it may offer those who suffer from certain forms of low back pain
an alternative to drug therapy or surgery. The treatment in the Canadian study
- Massage - Applying a variety of manual techniques such as
friction, stroking, and kneading of muscles, to trigger points (tender areas
where muscles have been damaged) along the soft tissue structures of the
- Remedial Exercise - 30 second sustained stretches in pain-free
range plus some mobility exercises such as walking.
- Postural education, which includes individualized lessons on
body mechanics at work and during daily activities.
If you are suffering from low back pain and wish to try massage as a
treatment option, you should know that there are many kinds of massage. Your
doctor may be able to help you identify the kinds that will be most helpful to
you. Below is a glossary of some of the more popular techniques:
Lymphatic Massage - Therapists use a light pulsing touch along lymph
vessels in order to stimulate lymph circulation, which helps the body eliminate
Tui na is a form of deep tissue massage and manipulation, originating
in China, used to treat arthritic and rheumatic pains. It also purports to
restore weak or damaged nerves and tone the spine and acupuncture points
adjacent to it.
Shiatsu, a Japanese massage technique, uses gentle finger and hand
pressure to adjust the body's structure and energetic balance.
Rolfing - Pressure is applied to the fascia (connective tissues
between layers of muscle) to stretch and lengthen it to make it more flexible.
Rolfing seeks to realign the body so that it conserves energy, releases tension,
and functions better.
Myofascial Release - Gentle stroking and stretching of the fascia
helps the patient achieve postural changes and better body alignment.
Trigger point and Myotherapy - Pressure is applied to tender areas in
order to increase blood flow and soothe spasms.