Saturday, December 10, 2011

The secret of "low back" pain management

It may surprise you to learn that treatment of low back pain does not always occur on the "low back". Each week I meet people who are seeking massage therapy for their low back pain. They come in abundance, the "huddled masses" that have had enough of that nagging ache or that sharp screaming pain that stabs at them continually.

Sports injuries, car accidents, occupational hazards, pregnancy and poor posture are a few of the repeat offenders we see. The cause of their pain is as diverse as their personalities, and so too are the treatments they receive.

Many times, a client's pain is actually caused by opposing muscles in other areas such as hamstrings, quadriceps, psoas, or latissimus. These muscles all have a role to play in the position of the hips. If you think of muscles as pulleys and bones as levers, you can visualize what might happen if one of those pulleys was shortened and the lever was left in an altered position, forcing all the other pulleys to adjust. In essence, there is a "tug of war" going on. If just one muscle is out of balance, the result is pain and/or stiffness.

There are many dynamics that we look at as massage therapists when considering a client's low back pain. In a clinical context, we check posture, position of the hips in relation to one another, and the texture of surrounding soft tissue. Equally relevant information would be the background of the client; health history, prior injuries, pain tolerance, and commitment level in correlation with that clients expectations. That is to say, treatment for low back pain in a 50 year old that is sedentary would differ greatly from an active 30 year old client who has been in a motor vehicle accident.

The patterns of dysfunction and the methods that can treat them are numerous. In massage therapy, we employ techniques such as deep tissue massage including myofascial release, trigger point therapy and neuromuscular therapy, as well as complimentary techniques like kinesio tape, stretching and craniosacral therapy etc. By using one or a combination of these techniques, a massage therapist has a unique role in the treatment of lower back pain through manually elongating shortened muscle fibers and connective tissues to restore balance in the lower back.

There is one common factor in the successful outcome of a massage therapy treatment session, and that is a client who is actively involved in the solution. Clients who are engaged in their care and perform stretches and exercises at home along with ice and/or heat on a consistent basis are much more likely to step out of the pain cycle.

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