Your back is the core support for your whole body and its condition is key to structural health. Poor back posture or muscle condition can cause back pain as well as aches and tension in other parts of your body. Back pain is one of the most common complaints, especially amongst adults aged over 40.
Learn how the best massage for back pain can ease tension in strained back muscles and ligaments as well as speed up your home recovery time.
The centre of your back comprises 24 small bones (called vertebrae) that are stacked on top of each other, together forming the spine (or vertebral column). Between these vertebrae are rubbery cushions, called discs. When functioning properly, these discs prevent the stacked vertebrae from rubbing against one another and enable movement such as rotating your neck or simply bending over. Also contained within your back is the base of your neck, your shoulders, the back of your rib cage, various key organs and over 70 different muscles. No wonder the back is one of the most commonly requested areas for massage therapy!
Many factors can affect the health and condition of your back, from injury to genetically inherited issues. The five most common complaints for back pain are:
When any muscle is overstretched it can become strained. We often refer to this as “pulling a muscle”. Activities such as lifting heavy objects from an awkward position or sudden irregular movements (the ‘Dad Dance’ for example!) are common causes for pulling a back muscle but even sleeping in an unusual position or on an unsuitable mattress can cause a strained muscle in your neck or back.
As you get older, the discs between the vertebrae in your spine become less spongy and less flexible. This can cause them to push out of position more easily, a usually temporary condition, known as a slipped disc. If a slipped disc ends up pressing against a nerve, you will most likely feel pain in the lower back area and also have difficulty straightening your back.
The longest nerve in your body, the sciatic nerve, runs from your hips all the way down to your feet. Many people suffer irritation to this nerve for a variety of reasons and such irritations can result in lower back pain as well as pain or discomfort in your buttocks, legs and feet.
Scoliosis is a condition where your spine is twisted more to one side than the other. It can affect people of any age but can also develop over time as you age, as a result of wear and tear of the vertebral column (known as degenerative scoliosis). Adults suffering from degenerative scoliosis are more likely to suffer from back pain.
Arthritis is the thinning out of the protective cartilage which surrounds your joints and can commonly affect the vertebrae bones in your spine. It results in less flexibility during movement and can cause stiffness and pain in your spine. Arthritis is a very common condition with around 1 in 6 people in the UK suffering from some form of it. It most commonly affects those aged 40 or over.
Massage can help with back pain in a variety of ways. Therapists can perform spot massage techniques such as Shiatsu or Acupressure which are targeted on specific troublesome areas of the back, neck or shoulders or they can do a more general relaxing full-body massage. When you are suffering from a backache, you will often also feel pain and tension in other parts of your body as a result of overcompensating for the lack of strength in your back muscles.
Massage styles such as deep tissue massage and sports massage can target specific problematic areas to actively increase blood flow and improve the delivery of nutrients to those areas. These techniques can help speed up the rate of overall recovery for certain back injuries.
Because our backs are so central to our lifestyle, suffering from back pain can also make us feel discouraged and down. The calming effleurage strokes from a softer massage style such Swedish massage can help soothe both physical and mental tension as well as encourage a boost of happy hormones such as endorphins and serotonins into your bloodstream to enhance your mood.
It is important to choose the best type of massage for the back pain you are suffering. Our Focus Man allows you to easily specify the areas of your back where you would like your massage therapist to spend extra time during your treatment. For upper back pain, we recommend that you select neck & shoulders and for lower back pain it is best to select the small of the back and buttocks areas.
It is very common to feel back pain during pregnancy, primarily due to the changes in your body shape and the resulting change in distribution of weight. Once you are more than 12 weeks pregnant, a specialised Pregnancy massage can provide much needed comfort and relief during the rest of your pregnancy.
As well as professional help from a qualified massage therapist or physiotherapist, you can help yourself recover from back pain at home through some simple but effective methods. Applying a cold or warm pack to the painful area can bring much needed immediate relief, as can over the counter anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Ibuprofen.
Avoid lifting things as much as possible and stop any strenuous exercise until you have fully recovered. Light exercise, especially lower backs stretches, can help alleviate tension in the short term. Once you have recovered it can be a good idea to perform specific back strengthening exercises to help prevent future strains and injuries.
Feel free to discuss these and other self-care options with your professional massage therapist when they visit you at your home or hotel to help reduce back pain.