Massage for back pain – which treatment should you choose?

All types of back massage can be beneficial for back pain and tension, but which type  you should choose depends on what is causing the pain. This post goes through 4 types of massage for back pain and what the benefits are of each.

Reasons for muscle pain and tension

Muscles are formed from bundles of microscopic fibres, which when healthy are able to contract and stretch smoothly. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can go wrong:

  • Emotional tension: when we’re experiencing stress or anxiety, we tend to hold onto muscle contractions, especially in the upper back and shoulders. People who regularly experience emotional tension often find it difficult to let their muscles relax properly and so the muscles become tight and uncomfortable.
  • Injury: even after injuries have healed, the injury site can be a problem due to the formation of scar tissue. Scar tissue doesn’t contract and relax as easily as normal tissue.
  • Overuse and repetitive movements can cause muscle fibres to form adhesions or “knots”, which cause pain and restricted movement.
  • Poor posture habits cause some muscles to be under more strain, which can result in tension being held in the muscles or even injury.

Muscle problems in the back

The lower back

Massage for low back pain Chelmsford

A common reason for low back pain is strain on the muscles caused by the low back arching. The core muscles should hold the pelvis stable and protect the lower spine. When they’re weak, the pelvis tilts forward and the low back arches. Unnecessary strain is placed on the muscles and attachments of the lower vertebrae. This can cause both injury and long term aches and pains from the muscles being tense.

Other reasons for low back pain include muscle strain from over-exertion, or from twisting or over-stretching.

The upper back

Massage for upper back pain Chelmsford

Upper back, shoulder and neck pain may be caused by physical factors such as poor posture, desk work, injury and repetitive movements, or by emotional tension (stress, anxiety etc.) which prevents the muscles from relaxing completely. In some cases, symptoms of upper back tension can be quite severe. For example, it can cause pain, limited range of movement and headaches. On the other hand, for some people it can be something they’re aware of but that isn’t causing too much of a problem (yet).

The shoulder joint is very mobile, allowing us a wide range of movement in all planes. While this is obviously advantageous, the degree of mobility means that the muscles supporting the joint can be vulnerable to injury. If the back muscles that stabilise the shoulder blades are weak, then they are easily strained by movements at the shoulder joint. Other causes of muscle strain in the upper back are over-exertion, twisting and over-stretching, as with the lower back.

How massage for back pain helps

Massage can do the following:

  • Encourage muscles to let go of tension and fully relax
  • Promote mental relaxation, which leads to physical relaxation
  • Break down areas of muscle “knots”’ caused by scar tissue from previous injury, poor posture and repetitive movements
  • Promote healing by flushing fresh blood through injured muscles that is recovering (48 hours+ post injury)
  • Encourage healthy rebuilding of injured muscle by preventing scar tissue forming

What are the different types of massage good for?

Deep tissue remedial massage

If you have aches, pains or injury you want treated, then a deep tissue massage is best. This will focus on problem areas, to restore normal muscle function.

If you have a recent injury, then rest and ice is the best treatment for the first 48 hours after injury. Following this, massage will help to promote healing. Initially the massage should not involve too much pressure. As the muscle heals, deeper massage will encourage healthy rebuilding without scar tissue.

Relaxing massage

If you just want to relax, unwind and have your upper back muscles let go of tension, then a more gentle massage with less pressure is more suitable. 

Hot stones massage

Hot stones back massage Chelmsford

Hot stones is another option for a relaxing massage, which has the added benefit that the warmth of the stones allow deeper work into the muscle without the pressure. The warmth can also be very comforting and therefore promote emotional relaxation.

Hot stones with deep tissue

For a very effective deep tissue massage, choose a hot stones and deep tissue combination. The stones will warm your muscles up and allow deeper work on problem areas. 

Book a massage for back pain

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