You've tried everything changing the way you sit at work, taking pain medications, carrying a lighter bag. But your back pain just won't let up. Now, you're considering massage therapy.
You're not alone low back pain is the most common cause of work-related disability and the second most common neurological issue (after headaches), according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Back pain can stem from many different sources, but commonly it happens as a result of aging. Bone strength and muscle elasticity decrease with age, and discs between the vertebrae begin to lose fluid, says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
This causes the discs to painfully rub against each other and puts extra pressure on the spinal nerves, which leads to pain. Pain can also come from an accident or trauma, or a more serious condition.
But how do you find a good massage therapist? And will massage really make a difference?
The American Massage Therapy Association says yes. The organization's official statement is that massage can be helpful in reducing low back pain, as well as decreasing the disability, depression and anxiety that often go with it.
How Massage Works
Swedish massage is what you think of when you picture massage. It was developed in the 1700s, and involves using long strokes, circular pressure and kneading, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. The end goal: to simultaneously energize and relax you by relaxing your muscles and increasing oxygen flow in the blood as long as you're not overly sensitive or too ticklish.
Researchers found that massage may work better than other treatments at reducing lower back pain, according to a July 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Once a week for 10 weeks, each of the 400 study participants received either a Swedish massage, deep tissue massage (targeting specific pain points) or traditional care, like pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs or physical therapy.
In follow up at 6 months and again at 1 year later, participants in the massage groups reported increased mobility and decreased pain. In some cases, participants reported their pain had disappeared completely after massage.
Finding the Right Massage Therapist
Your best friend's step-sister's cousin may have just gotten a massage table, and she may be offering you a great deal. But think carefully before you take her up on it.
You don't want to add any more pain to what you're already experiencing. And that makes picking the right massage therapist key. After all, your back is a major part of your body. It helps hold you upright.
This means they have to go through a formal program, and receive training in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. A private organization typically gives a test in order to analyze and then publicly certify those who pass.
The state of Idaho doesn't require board certification for massage therapists, but it does require massage therapists to receive their licensure, which comes from the state. The National Certification Board for Massage Therapy and Bodywork offers this exam, which lets potential massage therapists prove their basic understanding of the practice.
After consulting your doctor, make sure to find a massage therapist who qualifies under state regulations. That way, you'll help ensure that you're back to feeling better as soon as possible.
Just make sure you're listening to your body and keeping an open dialogue with your doctor. Massage doesn't work for everybody, and it definitely shouldn't leave you in pain for days afterward. Your doctor can help you decide when and if surgery might be your best option.
Learn more about how West Valley can help you with chronic back pain.