Back pain is one of the most common complaints that I get before giving a massage. It’s interesting to me that back pain is such a prevalent problem area for people. Back pain can be caused by many things, like poor posture, sitting all day, lack of exercise, and injury. So what’s a person with back pain to do? It might be tempting to alleviate your pain with prescription drugs. But before you do that, I have a couple of alternatives you should try: yoga and massage. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And something so simple can’t possibly work, can it? As a massage therapist who does weekly yoga as well as receives regular massages to repair my own body, I’m here to show you that yes, it really is that simple, and it really does work. Here’s why.
Ditch the Pills and Start Relaxing
I came across an article from NPR the other day that talked about how drugs should be a last resort for back pain sufferers. Instead, the American College of Physicians recommends nonpharmacologic treatments (i.e. pain meds) for lower back pain; massage and yoga are at the top of the list. These kinds of treatments (in addition to heat wraps, acupuncture and chiropractic care, among others) help to reduce stress and relax the muscles and joints…key factors that contribute to lower back pain. So if you are experiencing lower back pain, start with yoga and massage to put you on the road to recovery before turning to drugs. You’ll find that what your body and your mind need is a chance to relax and heal.
My Experience with Yoga
Being a massage therapist definitely takes a physical toll on my body, and even I start to experience wear and tear on my body after a long day of massage. Since I’m standing for hours at a time pouring my energy into the healing process, my feet and lower back, especially, start to ache. On top of getting regular massages (yes, massage therapists get massages, too!), I have been doing restorative yoga every week at Wellness Works for a couple of months now. It has made all the difference for me both physically and mentally.
I’ve found that yoga is relaxing, grounding, and therapeutic. During a session, we hold stretches for a long time so the body can truly relax into the stretch. As a result, my back, neck and shoulders have less tension and I find myself slowing down, focusing on my breathing, and letting go of stress. It’s wonderful in so many ways!
You do not have to be a fitness nut or in good shape to begin yoga. It may be a challenge at first, but your body grows stronger over time.
Massage for Back Pain
When it comes to addressing back pain with massage, I like to start with myofascial work to address the tightness and tension I find. Then I work deeper on the affected back muscles, also addressing any tightness in the hips, shoulders and neck. Your body is so intimately connected within itself which is why it’s important to pay attention to areas that may be additional sources of tension and pain. I tell all of my clients that it is ideal to stretch between massage sessions…and that’s where the yoga can come in! I think you’ll find that a combination of the two will go a long way into giving you the pain relief you need.
Other Tips for Managing Back Pain
If you have seen the doctor and he or she has ruled out any serious cause yet you still have back pain, here are a few things to consider:
- How old is your mattress? You may need a new one.
- Do you get home from work and sit down for hours? Get up every 15 or 20 minutes and move around. Try rocking in a rocking chair for part of that time.
- The same goes for work. Do you sit in your work chair for long periods of time without getting up and walking around? Set your timer to get out of your chair at least every 30 minutes.
- Inflated exercise balls are a great way to stretch the back. Be careful and only stretch for a minute or two to start, and then you can slowly increase the time.
- Walking everyday can also be helpful for back pain.
Live Pain Free with Yoga and Massage
You really have nothing to lose other than your back pain when you start doing yoga and receiving regular massages. There are plenty of free yoga videos on YouTube, but I highly recommend working with someone who can help you with proper form so you can get the most out of your practice. And be sure to contact me to schedule your massage session!