The Science of Massage: How It Works for Back Pain

The Science of Massage: How It Works for Back Pain


Massage therapy is becoming more common for treating back pain. This is because there is lots of evidence that massage can help with chronic pain. Massage is used for healing, reducing stress, and making the body more flexible. It works by using manual pressure to target areas with tension.

Research has been done on massage. Scientists have found out how massage can help physically and mentally. Massage can improve circulation, posture, joint flexibility, and muscle stiffness. It can speed up recovery after an injury. Also, it sends biochemical messages through the body, gives oxygen and nutrients to areas in need, and releases endorphins. It can also help with depression, anxiety, and overall wellbeing.

What Is Massage?

Massage therapy is an age-old practice. It involves manipulating soft tissues in the body to create relaxation, increase blood flow and reduce tension. For thousands of years, people have used massage to heal many physical conditions and improve overall health, especially chronic back pain.

We’ll look at the science of massage therapy, how it helps reduce back pain and any potential risks or side effects.

Types of Massage

Massage therapy is an old healing practice that has changed over time and been improved. There are many types of massage, each with a special purpose. Knowing them can help you choose the best massage for you.

  • Swedish massage combines gentle kneading of muscles with long strokes to release tension and relax. Oil or lotion helps it.
  • Deep tissue massage is called therapeutic or progressive massage. It uses strong strokes to reach deep muscles and tissues. It’s more intense than Swedish massage, so if you want deeper treatment, book an expert.
  • Sports massage is made for athletes. It prevents injuries and helps with muscle recovery and tiredness. Swedish and deep tissue techniques, plus stretches and range-of-motion exercises, improve performance.
  • Trigger point therapy targets ‘knots’ in muscles. Pressure releases them, reducing pain in related areas.
  • Reflexology involves pressure on certain points along energy pathways of the body. This releases blocked energy, restoring balance overall.
  • Shiatsu massage uses finger tapping on meridians (energy pathways) based on Japanese holistic health systems like TCM.

Benefits of Massage for Back Pain

Massage can help soothe back pain. It can loosen tight muscles, boost circulation and aid healing. Research reveals that regular massage can also reduce stress and anxiety which can be linked to back pain.

Let’s explore different types of massage and how they work with back pain:

Stress Reduction

Massage therapy can reduce stress. Tense muscles lead to back pain. Massage helps to loosen muscle tension, increase circulation, and relax your body. It also boosts endorphin levels, which are the “feel good” hormones that reduce discomfort and aid relaxation.

Serotonin levels also rise with massage, which can improve mood states, lower anxiety, control appetite and sleep, and boost learning and concentration. The combination of stress relief and physical relaxation can make you more relaxed.

Studies show that massage can reduce depression symptoms by up to 50%. It is also beneficial for chronic pain such as lower back pain, as it is linked with reduced anxiety and stress.

Improved Circulation

Massage can improve circulation, and reduce swelling and tension in muscles. It boosts blood flow, removing toxins and delivering vital nutrients to cells. This keeps tissues healthy, tones muscles, and reduces inflammation and pain.

Moreover, massage is thought to increase endorphins – hormones that make you feel good. These hormones act as a natural pain reliever, without the need for meds or their side effects. Plus, higher endorphin levels can mean better sleep, lower stress, and an overall sense of wellbeing.

Muscle Relaxation

Massage helps to relax tight muscles which may be causing back pain. A study in 2007 found that massage therapy improved chronic back pain for those surveyed. Another study that same year found similar results when massage therapy was compared to normal medical care for low back pain.

Massage can soothe tight muscles, releasing knots and improving flexibility. With increased circulation and relaxed muscles, pain signals from reaching the brain are decreased and endorphins are released, providing a sense of wellbeing.

Massage also reduces any swelling caused by injury or arthritis. It creates space between muscle fibers and tendons, allowing for better mobility and less restricted movement due to painful spasms or tension. Light massage can improve soft tissue elasticity and reduce scarring after surgery or trauma; it encourages scar cells to turn over more slowly.

Some of the benefits of massage include:

  • Improved circulation
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Reduced pain signals
  • Increased endorphin release
  • Reduced swelling
  • Improved soft tissue elasticity
  • Reduced scarring after surgery or trauma

For more information, please refer to Monteiro-Riviere NA et al., “Massage For Tissue Repair” International Journal of Dermatology 38 (1999): 482–485.

How Massage Works

Massage is an old-time therapy used to loosen up muscle tension and reduce stress. Science has not yet figured out the exact mechanics of massage, but there is proof that massage helps lower back pain.

Let’s dive deeper into how massage alleviates pain:

Trigger Points

Trigger points are areas of acute hyperactivity in muscles. They happen with common events like stress, overuse, or injury. Though it may feel like a knot, it can cause pain elsewhere, like the back. Applying pressure to these points allows them to relax and increases blood flow. This may help move toxins out and signals muscles to relax.

Massage therapy for back pain uses various methods. This includes kneading, stroking, squeezing, joint mobilizations, and assisted stretching. Applying specific techniques on myofascial trigger points in soft tissues like muscles or fascia around joints helps provide benefit for back pain sufferers.

Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular therapy is a form of deep tissue massage. It works to treat soft tissue pain and disabilities by releasing contracted muscles, loosening adhesions, and balancing the body’s nervous system. It involves slow strokes and targeted pressure tactics on specific areas and muscle groups.

This therapeutic technique has been used for over 100 years to treat many symptoms. These include back pain, neck pain, chronic headache, sports injuries, stress-related headaches, migraines and other conditions related to muscular dysfunction. Neuromuscular therapy can alleviate pain without medication or surgery.

Apart from being a great technique for relieving chronic musculoskeletal dysfunction, neuromuscular therapy also offers many health benefits. Research shows it reduces stress hormones in people with PTSD and increases self-awareness. It also releases endorphins into the body, which promote healing and pleasure. Plus, it may improve sensory perception due to increased nerve conduction velocity.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a form of massage therapy used to help alleviate pain and improve mobility. It is also known as deep tissue or deep tissue massage. This technique involves stretching and movement to target trigger points, which are areas in the body affected by injuries, poor posture, overuse, or trauma.

To practice myofascial release, start off with gentle pressure on the area to boost circulation. You should feel warmth spreading through the muscles, indicating that blood flow has increased.

Next, use different massage strokes such as compression movements or cross-fiber friction depending on how deeply you want to go. Muscles will often be relaxed when you feel heat radiating from them.

Finally, apply sustained pressure on any tight spots until they soften out. Myofascial release can help restore full movement in tight tendons and muscles!


To wrap up, massage is a holistic, useful option to ease back ache from muscle stiffness and tautness. Research has proven that massage reduces inflammation, boosts blood flow, and releases endorphins (natural pain reducers) in the body which helps dull the pain.

Furthermore, massage is a great way to combat tension and anxiety which can bring about back pain. If you suffer from chronic back pain, massage could be an essential component of your treatment plan. Nevertheless, it’s critical to speak with your physician or physical therapist to guarantee massage is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is massage therapy?

A: Massage therapy is a form of manual treatment that involves applying pressure to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments, to promote relaxation, pain relief, and overall health and wellness.

Q: How does massage therapy help with back pain?

A: Massage therapy can help relieve back pain by reducing muscle tension, improving circulation, and promoting the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. It can also help improve flexibility and range of motion in the back, making it easier to move and reducing the risk of further injury.

Q: What are the different types of massage therapy for back pain?

A: There are several different types of massage therapy that can be used for back pain, including Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point massage, and myofascial release therapy. Each type of massage targets different aspects of the back muscles and can provide different benefits.

Q: How often should I get a massage for back pain?

A: The frequency of massage therapy for back pain depends on the individual’s needs and the severity of their symptoms. Some people may benefit from weekly massage sessions, while others may only need treatment every few weeks or months. It is best to work with a licensed massage therapist to determine the ideal frequency of treatment for your back pain.

Q: Are there any risks associated with massage therapy for back pain?

A: In general, massage therapy is considered safe for most people. However, there are certain conditions that may make massage therapy inappropriate or potentially harmful, such as open wounds, fractures, or blood clots. It is important to consult with a licensed massage therapist or healthcare provider before receiving massage therapy for back pain.

Q: How can I find a licensed massage therapist for back pain?

A: You can find a licensed massage therapist in your area by searching online directories or contacting professional massage therapy organizations. It is important to choose a therapist who is trained and experienced in treating back pain and who has a good reputation for providing safe and effective treatment.

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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