Massage for back pain?!
What is Back Pain?
Back pain is very common – typically it presents as lower back pain but can be pain anywhere along the spine. It can range from a dull ache to sharp, intense, stabbing pain that makes it difficult for you to move normally.
What causes Back Pain?
There are number of different potential causes of pain in the back pain. The type of pain that you get, together with when you get back pain helps us to determine the cause:
- Sciatica – tingling or pain that runs through the buttock, back of the leg and into the feet. check out our Sciatica blog post for more information
- Spinal Conditions like stenosis – typically consistent pain and stiffness that lasts months or years. Often with poor flexibility
- Muscle/ligament strains & sprains – trauma to the soft tissue can be either overuse/repetitive or intense/sudden pain
- Hypermobility/subluxation – weakness, instability, clicking in the back. Normally muscle fatigue occurs towards the end of the day.
- Facet joint irritation – sudden, sharp pain often worse when moving quickly but more manageable with slower movements.
- Stress fracture – typically an overuse sporting injury from activities like golf, tennis or cricket requiring repetitive spinal rotation with extension. Consistent low grade pain made worse with exercise or load
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – can either present as sharp stabbing pain, or more typically as a persistent ache low in the back or into the glutes.
- Non-specific Lower Back Pain – general lower back typically worse towards the end of the day and with some mild stiffness
Will Back Pain get better on it’s own?
In most cases yes. It’s a self limiting condition which means a lot of people will get better in a few weeks or months (see the NHS website here). It depends on the cause of your symptoms and other factors.
If you haven’t noticed an improvement in your symptoms but a doctor has cleared you, that’s exactly the time to book a Sports Massage appt to start making some progress.
What factors are going to affect my recovery?
We now know that look at the mechanics of an injury is only half the story. Sometimes pain can be a lot worse or less depending on many other factors. This is to do with the nervous system – making decisions on how importantly or loudly to talk to you about what’s going on. This is pain science (and we are pain science geeks here at HeadStart!)
Other factors that can affect your recovery are:
- Quality of sleep – once you’re in pain this is THE biggest predictor of your improvement
- Depression – often people with depression experience more pain. This does not mean we have to cure you of depression to improve your pain! But it does mean we need to consider this if you are getting slower recovery. And we’ve worked with plenty of people with this before.
- Stress & Anxiety – This is general stress & anxiety, good or bad, it could be the daily commute, worrying about money, looking for a new job or even organising your wedding. All of these factors can affect your experience of the pain and your recovery.
- Survival value – How important is it for you to be pain free? This can go both ways, it can either make things worse because you’re desperate to get better and that’s making you more stress and anxious. OR it could be that because you ‘have’ to make it through that 4hr car journey to see your family it drops the pain to allow you to do that.
- Catastrophizing – This is an important one that we work on in clinic. It’s very important to help challenge the thoughts that you’re never going to be able to…run again, sit without pain, that your disc has exploded inside your body. Why? Because this makes you stressed, and stress increases pain. I think it’s pretty reasonable if you have a numb foot you’d be fairly worried. So this is where we have to find out the cause of your symptoms and work towards a treatment plan that works for you.
- Fear Avoidance – Lying in bed avoiding moving, or worrying that you’re going to damage yourself more if you return to the gym is the last thing we want you to be doing. Think of it like a phobia, to help you improve you your back pain we need to get you challenging yourself a bit – to discover that things ARE ok and you can do things. Of course we modify any movements that are causing pain – but it’s very important you don’t avoid doing things because you’re afraid.
- Beliefs – beliefs like, I’m getting old, or my dad had a bad backs so it’s genetic, or my disc has exploded so I have to be extremely careful about what I do, ALL make your pain worse or slow your recovery. And that’s what we need to address.
Massage Therapy for Back Pain
Will Sports Massage help my Back Pain?
Because we’re able to help with the mechanical cause of your pain, like muscle tension or spasm. We can find ways to stretch muscles without causing nerve irritation if that’s the cause AND we help mobilise your lower back, hips and upper back in ways to relieve tension.
Also we’ll address all the factors above.
The discussion with your therapist when you have something like back pain is just as important as the hands on treatment.
By combining hands on work, calming the nervous system, it makes things more tolerable allowing you to move more normally.
This creates a window of opportunity for you after the appt for you to get moving more and a chance for your brain & body to learn that the risk is lower, hopefully causing a longer lasting effect of reduced muscle tension and improved movement. Exercising, using the muscles, during this time is REALLY important!
Getting deep tissue massage on your lower & upper back, glutes, quads and hamstrings is very effective at reducing pain and improving flexibility. Reducing pain in order to increase your movement is the most important thing when you have back pain and Sports Massage is a great way to help.
What if I have a disc injury?
If you have a condition like a disc injury, then of course Sports Massage doesn’t directly affect the disc! But what Sports Massage can do is to keep the surrounding muscles as healthy and flexible as possible. We can maintain the health of the spinal joints as well as improving mobility in the hips adjusting the load in your back. Managing back pain and maintaining mobility is just as as important for some people who have a long history of back pain.
We’ll also recommend safe exercises and stretches for you to perform at home. Depending on your specific symptoms you may find some simple seated stretches like this really helpful.
What can I do to help my Back Pain?
- If you haven’t already then make yourself an appt with a GP. It’s important to get checked by a medical professional if you have had pain for a while. Once given the all clear or you have a diagnosis then we can begin to help.
- Book a Sports Massage with one of our team! We’ll be able to help assess, identify what the causes of the back pain are and create a treatment to get you back in action ASAP!
- Continue to keep moving. There is a big difference between pain and discomfort here. It is VERY important that you move as much as possible and continue to live life as normally as possible as long as your pain levels are below 4/10. Which to me means it’s going to be uncomfortable but not painful
- Get advice on activities that make symptoms worse. Anything that you notice causes an increase in pain, get some advice. We need to determine if that’s purely because you’ve done too much and the body is fatigued OR if you are causing more irritation. If you’re keen for a clear template then use our traffic light system for training when you’re in pain.
- Where possible avoid movements that cause intense pain – it’s unlikely to be causing damage, but you are irritating the the muscles and potentially slowing your progress.
- Experiment with different stretches and mobility techniques – often using a mobility ball or foam roller can be really helpful here. Here’s some of our tutorials on how to use a mobility ball or foam roller. And these stretches are great for helping with back pain
- Relax – this can be as simple as lying down in a comfortable position a few times a day, taking deep breaths or going for a short walk. We really like to recommend body based relaxation exercises like PMR or the free HeadSpace app
Back pain can be very range from nerve pain, aching or sharp pain on movement. It can be extremely painful and distressing, and although most cases improve in 4-6 weeks it also can be very stubborn. It is a common condition that we see in clinic and can get very significant improvements and pain relief using Sports Massage to help back pain.
If you have any questions either send us a message using the FB messenger link in the bottom right corner of this page or email us here.