Massage For Lower Back Pain?

Have You Ever Tried A Massage for Lower Back Pain? If You Haven't - Chances Are You Should!

In This Article –

  • How Can We Measure The Real Benefits Of Massage Therapy?
  • Will A Back Massage Really Help Your Pain?
  • Can You Get A Good Back Massage At Home?

The Short Answer –

Trying a massage for lower back pain may seem ineffective – but sometimes it is just what the doctor (should have) ordered for your lower back pain. You just need to get it right….

Some traditionalists cast doubt on alternative therapies for back pain because of a lack of a scientific evidence, but we always have to remember that pain is not always a definable concept and that sometimes methods work without always having an obvious reason as to why.

In this article we consider the case for at least trying some form of massage for lower back pain and find that it can be the perfect solution…

How Can We Measure The Real Benefits Of Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is almost the definition of an enigma – therapists will argue in their thousands that massage therapy works, but every time an independent scientist looks at it, there are so many variables it becomes almost impossible to draw detailed, scientifically-significant results.

In theory it should be easy – take 100 people with lower back pain (for example), give 50 a course of massage and 50 no treatment, then monitor their levels of pain week after week for 10 weeks.

Ok great – that’s the outline of a serious experiment, but how many sessions of massage are most effective? Should it be 10 sessions or would less yield more pain relief? Should the sessions be one week apart of two weeks…or four weeks?

Did the therapist use the most effective massage for lower back pain? Would a different technique have yielded different results? What even are the designated ‘techniques’ for massaging lower back pain?

And  perhaps the most important question of all – if the pain was indeed less after a massage was it down to the physical effect on your back or all the other positive effects on your mindset, of relaxation and of the very human benefit of just being massaged.

One such trial that did manage it (to an extent) was this Australian trial that concluded that a 10 minute massage after exercise reduced overall soreness by 30%. But even this was vague in it’s conclusions.

So clearly trying to assess the clinical effectiveness of massage therapy is a bit of a minefield. To make it even worse is the fact that so few massage therapists are actually ‘clinical’ at all.

No-one attends medical school to become a massage therapist and, with the exception of trained physiotherapists that often offer massage as an add-on, most massage therapists have only been taught for a matter of weeks before deciding they are ‘qualified’ to work on your lower back.

And part of their course will inevitably be about facial/ foot/ leg massages with various ‘swedish’ or ‘stone’ techniques for added promotional value.

An image of a woman getting a massage from her husband with the caption 'Massage doesn't always have to be carried out by a professional'.

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Will A Back Massage Really Help Your Pain?

Massage for lower back pain however, most certainly does work in many circumstances.

Why that is – who really knows, but broadly speaking the number of people with back pain that benefit from a back massage is substantial enough to draw a fair assumption that they do work – and work well.

It may be down to the tremendously positive experience of relaxation that you can get from a good massage, or even the benefits for your mental health, since pain receptors are ultimately a mental experience and it has been clinically proven that a change in mindset can reduce the feeling of pain.

Either way, it certainly seems to work for many people, even if the science is a little less clear.

Furthermore, unlike surgery on the lower back that carries so many risks, or painkillers that have both side effects and addiction risks or even Chiropractic therapy that can actually make your spinal stability worse, massage therapy carries few clinical downsides.

A bad massage is mostly just ineffective, providing it is mechanical back pain that you have and not a fractured spine for example, whereupon any contact with the spine before surgery could dramatically worsen it’s condition. As a general rule, however, there are very few downsides to trying a massage for lower back pain. 

The Final Word – Do You Have To Pay For A Massage?

Perhaps the biggest downside of massage therapy is actually it’s cost – and the inconvenience of having to go and see a ‘masseuse’. Even these though are largely mitigated by the wide range of literature teaching you and your partner to give very effective massages and the large number of home massagers on the market.

Given the short time time it takes for most ‘professional’ massage courses to throw out ‘qualified’ masseurs, it is probably fair to say that you and your partner could become fairly proficient in a relatively short period of time.

This is of course not to mention the other ‘relationship’ benefits of learning to massage each other. But if this isn’t quite your cup of tea, then a home massage kit can work out both inexpensive in the long-term and of great benefit in providing massage for lower back pain – finally teasing away the stress and discomfort that a sore back inflicts upon you.

There are plenty of these – some built in to the back of chairs and other more mobile versions, all designed to release stress.

Either way, we consider it fair to say that trying a massage for lower back pain is never a bad idea, as unlike with an osetopath, it’s not an aggressive manipulation and also comes with plenty of other benefits too.

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References Used –

1. Zainal Zainuddin, Mike Newton, Paul Sacco and Kazunori Nosaka (2005) Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. Journal Of Athletic Training.

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