In the not-too-distant past, the baseline treatment for people suffering from chronic back pain was for doctors to prescribe some form of pain medication. However, with growing concerns about opioid addiction (including legally prescribed pain meds), the American College of Physicians recently modified its treatment guidelines for chronic back pain sufferers, encouraging doctors to recommend alternative drug-free treatments such as massage therapy.
Dr. Nitin S. Damle, president of the ACP, explains: “Physicians should consider opioids as a last option for treatment, and only in patients who have failed other therapies, as they are associated with substantial harms, including the risk of addiction or accidental overdose.”
When properly administered by a professional, massage therapy can go a long way toward soothing chronic back pain, enabling patients to manage the pain without the potentially harmful and addictive side effects of medications. This is why spinal health facilities, such as Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center, are increasingly integrating drug-free wellness therapies into their health offerings.
How Massage Therapy Works to Soothe Back Pain
Strategic massaging of back muscles associated with pain can bring relief in several ways:
- Massage relaxes the muscles. Even with spine-related issues, tense muscles in the back can exacerbate the pain, causing the patient to seize up. Massaging these tissues helps relieve that tension, reducing the localized stress.
- Massage improves blood flow. Stimulating circulation in the affected muscles helps bring fresh blood to the site of the pain, helping alleviate soreness.
- Massage can improve mobility. When the muscles are more relaxed, it restores movement. If the patient takes advantage of this restored mobility by engaging in a low-impact exercise like walking or aquatic therapy, this can also strengthen the muscles in the back, causing additional relief.
- Massage releases endorphins into the body. Endorphins are effectively nature’s pain relievers — “feel good” chemicals that are released into the body through massage, further alleviating pain.
Massage Targeted to the Condition
There are many different types of massage, each having its own range of benefits. Swedish massage, for example, is an excellent therapy for releasing stored-up tension in the tissues, relieving stress and overall pain. Sometimes, a massage therapist will implement trigger point therapy, targeting specific areas with cycles of pressure-and-release to alleviate pain. One of the most common and effective therapies for chronic pain sufferers is deep tissue massage, combining greater pressure with slow strokes to reach the deeper parts of the muscle and connective tissues.
In addition to different forms of therapy, the massage therapist may hone in on certain muscles related to the source of your back pain. These muscles may or may not be at the direct pain site, but rather associated with or connected to the source of the pain. The therapist will typically interview the patient to learn the specific condition and symptoms before recommending a type of therapy.
When is Massage Therapy Recommended for Back Pain?
Massage therapy may be a good option for treating and managing back pain in the following situations:
- As an alternative to potentially addictive pain medications, especially in mild to moderate cases
- As a pain management supplement before and/or after a surgical procedure
- As a complementary therapy to other forms of treatment
- To enhance psychological and physical well-being during recovery from a procedure
- As a basic stress reliever for ongoing chronic pain management
When is Massage Therapy Not Recommended?
There are certainly situations in which massage therapy is not appropriate and may aggravate the condition. For example, if the source of the pain is severe osteoporosis, the pressure from massage might damage brittle bones. Additionally, if the pain comes from a broken bone or an injury, massage can aggravate these conditions. Your doctor and massage therapist will be able to advise you whether massage therapy is a good option for you.
Through our Spine Wellness Center, Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center is pleased to offer high quality massage therapy services for patients seeking relief from chronic back pain and other ailments. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call today at 404-256-2633.