Massage Therapy for Back Pain
Many American adults seek medical treatment for back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, it's estimated that eight out of 10 people will experience back pain and that it is one of the most common medical problems. When traditional medicine doesn't relieve the pain, many people turn to alternative treatments such as massage therapy.
"Massage can be very beneficial for back pain," says Kathleen Clayton, a licensed massage therapist and spokesperson for the American Massage Therapy Association. The treatment is tailored specifically to each individual's needs, and the therapist is responsible for determining the appropriate touch-level and technique to use.
Massage is a proven and cost-effective treatment for persistent back pain, according to a 2003 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study was compiled from recent reviews of controlled trials evaluating acupuncture, massage therapy, and spinal adjustments in relieving back pain. The researchers concluded that massage therapy was the most effective treatment method when compared with the other two. This opinion was based on the positive results experienced by patients with persistent back pain at the end of a 10-week treatment period and one year after treatment. The costs associated with massage therapy was considered justified by the substantial improvement in function and the reduced number of health care services during the year.
The therapist uses his or her hands to perform various movements on the skin to massage muscles and ligaments. This promotes relaxation and a sense of well-being. The main techniques of massage involve stroking, kneading, or pressing on the body.
These techniques can relieve muscle tension, spasms, aches, stiffness, and pain. Other benefits include improved circulation, flexibility, and range of motion.
As the therapist uses his or her hands or specialized tools to massage muscles, circulation is increased. Blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients, and helps muscles eliminate waste products, such as the lactic acid that may collect in muscles from spasms, causing pain.
Before getting a massage for back pain, ask about the therapist's credentials, training, and experience in treating back problems.