Back pain happens. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Those same statistics point to back pain as the second most common reason that people visit their doctors and one of the primary causes of absenteeism at work. To top it off, Americans spend upwards of $50 billion annually on treating back-related issues.
In today’s cubicle-based work environment, poor ergonomics attributes to an ever growing segment of back pain sufferers. Hunching over a computer at an improperly fitted desk or sitting in an unsupportive chair is the top reason why 54 percent of desk workers suffer from chronic back pain.
With workplaces being more sedentary, posture-related pain from sitting most of the day can irritate even a healthy back. Many back injuries occur over time. The more stress your back absorbs from hunching at your desk and repeating irritating movements like using a computer keyboard or smartphone, the more minor injuries begin to compound and weaken the muscles in your back. Those small injuries add up and can lead to your need for a visit to the massage therapist.
Massage therapy eases tension caused by adhesions in the soft muscle tissue in your back. Its goal is to eliminate or reduce pain-causing symptoms. Therapists work to release tension at trigger pressure points, commonly referred to as “knots.” These knots in your muscles — sometimes caused by rigid or torn tissue — become inflamed, creating pain, while blocking blood and oxygen circulation and can limit movement.
Incorporating holistic massage, which treats the whole person and aims to not only eliminate physical pain, but mental tension, can help restore balance within the body. The philosophy believes that every part of our being is interconnected — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual — to achieve maximum health benefit.
How massage works
When you visit a massage therapist, his or her aim will be to locate your affected trigger points and apply direct pressure. For some people, therapeutic massage causes a mild level of discomfort because the touch is more intense. Therapists have to press into the soft tissue to knead out the knots in the muscle. Communicate with your therapist if the level of pressure on your muscles begins to hurt or if you feel soreness or pain beyond your level of comfort.
Once your massage therapist treats the tightened muscles, many people feel relief and reduced pain after the first visit. It’s not unusual for you to feel some stiffness or pain after a therapeutic massage. It may take one to three days for the soreness to resolve.
In taking a holistic approach, your therapist will take care to address your physical aliments while learning more about you, your life, and your environments. This will help him or her to conclude if your neck or back pain goes beyond physical pain, or be linked to mental stress incurred at the workplace — 40 percent of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful, according to the American Institute of Stress — or at home. Your therapist will then begin to administer your massage understanding how to make it most beneficial to you.
After your massage, your therapist may recommend drinking a bottle of water. Water helps your kidneys and other organs to flush out toxins released during your massage. Since your muscles are 75 percent water, drinking after your treatment helps to nourish and replenish them, as well.
Massage therapy offers a range of benefits for back pain sufferers. Because our back and spine are closely related, other ailments you may not have considered can pop up when your back is injured. Having a massage can help in the following ways:
• Physical — Eases or eliminates upper and lower back pain (including the neck). Helps immunity. Improves mental health and focus by releasing serotonin and endorphins. Helps fibromyalgia. Reduces or removes headaches caused by back strain. Stops insomnia related to pain (and stress). Comforts soft tissue strains or injuries, including those sports injuries. Increases blood flow to the affected area and the surrounding muscles so that the muscles can receive healing doses of oxygen.
• Mental — Improves clarity. Lessens mental strain. Helps restore concentration and focus. Boosts mood.
• Emotional — Calms anxiety. Reduces stress. Relieves symptoms of depression. Improves outlook.
While massage therapy provides many benefits, it should not be seen as a replacement for medical care for more severe back conditions. If you are one of the millions of desk workers dealing with back pain, begin the practice of stretching at your desk, and book an appointment with your local massage therapist and get on the road to having a healthier back while you work.