Massage therapy breaks down scar tissue and releases muscles from spasms. It is becoming increasingly more recognized as a form of medical treatment; a study by the American Massage Therapy Association found that 54% of healthcare providers encourage massage therapy, along with other types of therapy for back pain. Studies have shown that massage therapy is more effective than both chiropractic and acupuncture for relieving pain due to muscle spasms. The benefits of massage therapy include improved circulation, which helps alleviate muscle soreness; muscle relaxation, which helps muscles move without pain; and increased endorphins, the bodys natural pain relievers. If muscle spasms do not relax with massage therapy, that means inflammation is likely present and cannot be treated with massage. So if you know your back pain is due to inflammation, it wont help to seek out massage therapy.
You should be aware that the kind of massage you receive in a spa is not the same kind of massage used to treat back pain. Swedish massage is the most common type of massage found in spas and similar places that offer massages, and while it feels good, it is too superficial to reach deep tissue and muscles and have any lasting affect on back pain.
The kind of massage used to treat back pain is called Neuromuscular therapy (NMT), or trigger point myotherapy. This type of massage works to relieve pain by balancing the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. NMT incorporates special massage therapy techniques, myofacial release, and stretching to relive both acute and chronic patterns of pain.
There are many massage training schools throughout the United State. Along with massage, neuromuscular therapists study neurological laws governing pain, the roles of soft tissue in pain, and palpation, as well as anatomy, physiology, and the function of the spine. In order to practice, massage therapists must be licensed and you should make sure that when looking for a massage therapist, you choose one that has had training in neuromuscular therapy. To find a massage therapist, get a referral from your doctor or contact the American Massage Therapy Association.
A neuromuscular therapist will ask you for all of the information that other therapists do and examine your spine to determine where exactly the pain is and whats causing it. She will determine where nerves are compressed and where they are trapped within soft tissue. The therapist will work to relieve your back pain with her hands, fingers, elbows, and pressure bars, which are used to reach deeper into spinal muscles and tendons. She will use some kind of lubrication and start first on superficial tissue before moving deeper.
This should not hurt, but you will feel pressure, and you may be sore afterwards due to the muscles releasing lactic acid. The therapist will also palpate trigger points, elevated neurological areas deep within the muscles. This may hurt initially, but the pain should go away quickly as the therapist continues to work. Back pain should respond to massage within four treatments over six weeks. If not, massage is clearly not the best treatment.