Complicated Back Pain – Is Massage a Luxury Or an Investment?

According to top medical authorities including Mayo Clinic and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, more than 90% of back pain resolves with conservative treatment.  It is also widely known that physical conditioning or exercises that strengthen the muscles and structures that support our spine are essential in both preventing and treating back pain.

Simple solution, right? Just exercise your way out of pain OR undergo 6+ weeks of Physical Therapy and poof – your pain goes away.  Well, anyone who has experienced debilitating back pain knows how difficult this path can be.  All too often, back pain leaves us in so much pain that we can barely make it off the couch, or find a way to sleep comfortably.   How can Physical Therapy, exercises or even Yoga be practical?

This is where Orthopedic (structural) massage can play a key role.  A well trained massage therapist can identify causative unhealthy tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint/spine stabilizing structures) through palpation and work methodically to restore the health of those structures to get you out of pain and moving faster.  The key of course is to reduce pain enough to allow you to return to your daily activities including a healthy exercise regime or, depending on your level of pain – Physical Therapy.  More healthy, balanced tissue supporting the spine = better alignment and less pressure on adjacent nerves.  Unlike a spa massage, a well planned Structural Massage session that helps you understand your condition and how to prevent it is an investment in your health, not a habit forming luxury. 

For the athlete, runner or physically fit individual, back pain symptoms and muscle imbalances go unnoticed until a spasm occurs. This is actually just as common in active individuals (for example runners with tight hip flexors, or weight lifters focusing on too much of the wrong muscle groups) or those sitting or standing for long periods when abdominal core muscles become short and tight overpowering the long and overstretched muscles supporting your spine.  A muscle imbalance can set your back up perfectly for a spasm (knife like stabbing pain) with the simple motion of getting out of a car or bending over to reach something.