Massage as a Complementary Therapy for Back Pain Management

Massage as a Complementary Therapy for Back Pain Management


Massage is a popular form of complementary therapy for managing back pain. It’s a type of manual therapy that uses soft tissue manipulation, pressure, stretching and range of motion. It’s an effective way to reduce pain, improve circulation, and quicken recovery.

This article looks into the role of massage in relieving back pain and its efficacy as a complimentary therapy.

Definition of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is an old form of physical healing with a long history. It is used to help relax and reduce pain, and to make people feel better. Massage is about touching soft parts of the body like tendons, ligaments, muscles and fascia. The fascia are like fibres that hold the muscle layers together.

There are different types of massage. For example, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, orthopedic massage and reflexology. Each type of massage helps different parts of the body, such as relaxation or reducing muscle tension.

Massage can also give psychological benefits. People feel less stressed after a massage, and happier. Serotonin levels in the body increase after a massage too. Massage therapy is good for people with chronic back pain. It helps the body without making the condition worse. Massage has both physical and psychological benefits. It relaxes people, and also uses techniques to help with problem areas.

Types of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a popular way to ease back pain. It is said to reduce pain, loosen tight muscles, help with injuries, decrease stress, and better circulation.

There are various massage types used in back pain management. These include Swedish, deep tissue, trigger point therapy, and myofascial release.

  • Swedish massage uses gentle pressure with varied levels. It’s often recommended for relaxation or if muscle tension is low.
  • Deep tissue uses steady pressure on specific trigger points in the muscle. It can help with chronic pain or contracted muscles, but should be avoided after injury or surgery.
  • Trigger point therapy applies pressure to areas with tension. This can help with knots and spasms, but may cause soreness afterwards.
  • Myofascial release stretches and manipulates connective tissues. It can be good for physical and emotional stress, but should be done by a trained professional.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage is now much more widely accepted as a type of therapy for treating back pain. It offers many advantages to those with chronic back pain. It is a secure, natural way to decrease pain, better posture, and increase mobility.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific advantages massage can have on the back:

Physical Benefits

Massage therapy has many physical benefits. It relaxes, reduces tension, and reduces inflammation related to back pain. It can also improve sleep and reduce fatigue, giving more energy.

Circulation increases, bringing healing oxygen and nutrients. Blood flow relieves stiff and painful muscles, improves movement and joint stiffness, and enhances flexibility and range of motion.

Soft tissue massage increases lymphatic drainage. This helps remove toxins, speeding up recovery time.

Massage provides a sense of relaxation, calming physical and emotional stressors. This balances cortisol levels, helping to manage illnesses or disorders such as fibromyalgia or headaches.

Mental Benefits

Massage therapy has been found to have multiple psychological benefits as a treatment for back pain. It can reduce anxiety, depression and improve sleep. Studies show that it can release serotonin and dopamine, the so-called happy hormones. It also decreases cortisol levels which are released when in pain or stress.

Receiving massage can loosen tense body parts, and cause a relaxation response in the nervous system. It helps increase circulation. One study found that weekly massages reduced depression by 50% over 8 weeks. Another study reported that chronic low back pain sufferers experienced improved mood after each session.

Massage can not only boost mood levels, but can also improve focus. It provides immediate relief from stress and tension, and can improve cognitive performance. A recent study showed that 20 minutes of chair massage decreased fatigue, improved concentration, increased alertness and enhanced psychological wellbeing.

Research on Massage Therapy and Back Pain

Studies demonstrate massage therapy is a great extra treatment for managing back pain. It can reduce pain, increase relaxation, and help loosen stress. Plus, it can reduce the need for opioids and the length of hospital stays for some types of back pain.

Now, let’s examine the research on massage and back pain.

Studies on the Effectiveness of Massage Therapy

Studies have found massage to be a successful form of managing lower back pain, especially chronic lower back pain. There is not yet consensus on the ideal type or length of massage for relief. However, research suggests massage therapy could lead to long-term improvement. It can also be paired with treatments for conditions like osteoporosis.

A 2017 systematic review studied massage therapy for lower back pain. Results showed that massage was more efficient than no action. It was even better than standard medical care in some cases. Massage lasting 30 minutes of moderate to deep tissue work had long-term effects. Herman et al (2017) recommend getting massage regularly, 2-3 times per week.

Studies of particular massage types have also shown benefit. A 2017 study of Swedish massage and chronic low back pain discovered significant decreases in sciatica, tenderness, disability, and increased strength after four weekly sessions over four weeks. Dabat et al (2018) found myofascial release gave better short-term results than traditional medical care, if combined with stretching and exercise.

A 2018 systematic review concluded that a mix of manual therapies and exercise is more effective than either alone for chronic non-specific low back pain. It improved functionality, range of motion, and reduced disability levels (Kadam et al., 2018).

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Back Pain

Massage therapy can offer many potential benefits to those with chronic back pain. It can reduce pain, increase range of motion, decrease muscle tension and relax the mind. Research shows that massage therapy has a wide range of benefits, both short-term and long-term.

Short-term benefits include lessened pain, reduced muscle tension, improved range of motion and more relaxation. Massage also encourages the release of endorphins – hormones that act like opiates – which block the perception of pain and give feelings of pleasure. Longer term effects include better posture, increased flexibility and strength, less scar tissue formation, and balance in the musculoskeletal system. These factors can help prevent chronic back pain from recurring.

In addition to improving physical health, massage therapy also helps mental wellness by allowing for relaxation and stress reduction. Studies show that it can promote better sleep quality which reduces fatigue from chronic pain and aids in recovery from injury or trauma. Patients who were treated with massage reported higher levels of happiness after their treatment, compared to those without intervention.

Overall, massage therapy supports the natural healing process of the body and provides relief from back pain in both short-term and long-term circumstances.

Potential Risks of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be great for easing back pain and making you feel relaxed. But, there are risks you should know about. It could lead to adverse side effects – like making existing tissue damage worse or causing a new injury.

Check out this section for more on the risks of massage therapy:

Side Effects of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is popular for managing health issues. It can help with chronic back pain, reduce stress, and improve sleep. But, it has risks too.

Soreness during or after treatment is normal. This usually goes away within a few days. Muscle stiffness or spasms can also happen. Bruised muscles, thrombosis, skin irritation, and hypersensitivity are other possible side effects.

It’s important to tell the massage therapist your medical history before starting. That way they can use techniques that will lower the risks related to your condition.

Contraindications of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy has benefits, but it is not safe for everyone. Your condition and symptoms may make massage therapy a bad idea. It is important to know the risks and conditions that make massage unsafe.

Contraindication of massage means a particular technique or kind of massage is not advised as it can cause tissue damage or pain. Deep tissue massage should be avoided if the person has cardiac conditions or inflammation. Massage is also unsafe for people with fever, infections, warts, moles, or if the person is pregnant.

Your therapist should ask about any medical conditions before giving massage. It is good for you to know what type of massage might be bad for your health. If you are pregnant or have diabetes or heart disease, your therapist should adjust the technique. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Specific conditions that make massage unsafe include:

  • Cardiac conditions
  • Inflammation
  • Fever
  • Infections
  • Warts
  • Moles
  • Pregnancy


Massage is generally a safe and beneficial therapy for managing back pain. It can be done alone or with other treatments. There are many advantages, but it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks and contraindications before starting a massage program.

Summary of Benefits of Massage Therapy

Research shows massage is a helpful type of treatment for back pain. It can help with physical and psychological health, reduce pain, and stress. It can also help to increase flexibility and range of motion, and improve posture.

Massage can reduce inflammation, which helps to decrease muscle spasm and relieve pain. When done correctly by a specialist, it can produce positive results shortly after one session and even more with multiple sessions over weeks or months. Using massage regularly can give long-term relief and maintenance sessions help keep the back pain away.

Recommendations for Further Research

This study suggests massage therapy may help reduce back pain and enhance performance. Yet, further research is needed to identify how massage works in reducing pain and how it should be used with existing treatments.

The authors call for a larger randomized controlled trial to accurately work out how effective massage is as a single treatment. This enables us to compare massage with traditional treatments like medicines and non-traditional treatments like acupuncture or yoga. Plus, further studies need to identify which type of massage offers the most advantage in reducing pain and increasing function. Also, longer term studies must be conducted to assess the potential long-term effects of using massage as part of back pain management plans over a period of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is massage as a complementary therapy for back pain?
A: Massage is a hands-on therapy that involves rubbing and kneading the muscles and other soft tissues of the body to relieve tension and pain.

Q: Can massage be used as a standalone treatment for back pain?
A: Massage can be used as a standalone treatment for mild cases of back pain, but it is more effective when used in conjunction with other treatments such as exercise, physical therapy, and medication.

Q: How does massage help with back pain?
A: Massage helps to increase circulation, relax muscles, and release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. It can also reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing, which can contribute to pain relief.

Q: Who can benefit from massage therapy for back pain?
A: Anyone with back pain can benefit from massage therapy, regardless of the severity or cause of the pain. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment.

Q: What are the potential risks of massage therapy for back pain?
A: The potential risks of massage therapy for back pain are minimal, but they can include soreness or discomfort after the massage, particularly if the therapist uses deep pressure.

Q: How often should I receive massage therapy for back pain?
A: The frequency of massage therapy for back pain depends on the severity of the pain and the individual’s response to treatment. In general, people with chronic back pain may benefit from weekly or bi-weekly massages, while those with mild to moderate pain may only need to receive massage therapy on an as-needed basis.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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