Massage and Back Pain

Definition:  Back pain is not a diagnosis but is a symptom of an underlying condition


Causes:There are many causes for back pain – too many for this to be a complete list. 

Low Back Pain Causes : Herniated discs, kidney stones, strains, sprains, misalignment of the spine, muscle spasms, muscle tightness, overdeveloped muscles, nerve impingement, spinal stenosis, spinal degeneration, disc compression, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, piriformis syndrome or false sciatica.

Upper Back Pain : Muscle spasms, spinal misalignment, heart attacks, indigestion, heart burn,

Signs/Symptoms: back stiffness, back pain, back tightness, hip pain, sciatica, pain down legs into feet, numbness in legs – to feet, limited range of motion.

Most Back injuries result from stresses due to poor posture, joint dysfunction, degeneration of the joints and psychological stress.



Bolstering: Many people will not be able to lie supine very long without back discomfort.  Use bolsters to prop knees up and reduce the lumbar lordosis.  Prone position may require a pillow under abdomen.  Side Lying position may be the most comfortable.

Specific Muscle treatments:

Erectors may be too long or short depending on lumbar lordosis and anterior/posterior rotation of the pelvis. 

Deep paraspinals used in sidebending and rotation of lumbar spine.

Psoas/iliacus- compress lumbar spine when tight.  These muscles should lift and separate the vertebrae and support the spine.  One side is usually tighter than the other meaning that the opposite side will not be working properly.  Tight psoas muscles are also weak.

Quadratus Lumborum contributes to lumbar compression

Rectus femoris/tensor fascia lata pulls ASIS down and forward contributing to anterior pelvic tilt.

Hamstrings when overly contracted pulls ischial tuberosity down contributing to posterior pelvic rotation

Abdominals when too tight or over developed compress spine and reduce effectiveness of the psoas muscle which supports the vertebrae

Gluteals and deep rotators tightness adds to hyperlordosis and anterior pelvic rotation.


Online Articles on Back Pain and Massage

The Mystery of Low-Back Pain: Part I Essential Skills By Ben E. Benjamin Massage and Bodywork Magazine

The Mystery of Low-Back Pain: Part II Ligament Tears By Ben E. Benjamin
The Mystery of Low-Back Pain: Part III  Treatment Choices
By Ben E. Benjamin
The Problem With The Back Mouse Diagnosing and Dealing with Episacroiliac Lipoma By W. David Bond

Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low-back pain: a randomized controlled trial  Michele Preyde

Making Sense of Back Pain
Part 1
By Leon Chaitow

Making Sense of Back Pain Part 2 By Leon Chaitow

 Spondylolisthesis: An Elusive Cause of Low Back Pain By Whitney Lowe, LMT, NCTMB

Relief From Back pain in 30 minutes by Stuart Taws

Lumbar Muscle Strains
by Whitney Lowe

Massage Decreases Lumbar Fatigue

Spa Therapies Improve Chronic Back Pain

Massage Improves Function, Reduces Pain and Anxiety Associated with Subacute Low-Back Pain

Chronic Low Back Pain Eased by Massage

Massage Eases Lower Back Pain, Increases Range of Motion

The Role of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda in Chronic Lower Back Pain, Part 2   By Craig Williams, LAc, AHG
A Case Report of the Treatment of Piriformis Syndrome
Applying Modalities of Therapeutic Bodywork
  By Peggi Honig
The Pinched Nerve Conundrum
  By Erik Dalton, PhD

Breath Therapy: A Mind–Body Awareness Approach for Chronic Low-Back Pain Somatic Research By Shirley Vanderbilt  Massage and Bodywork.Massage Today Articles:

Multifidus: The Multitasker By Judith DeLany, LMT

Upper Back Pain By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Back Pain: Often a Pain in the Gluteus Medius By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Unraveling the Lower Back Pain Puzzle By Barbra Esher, AOBTA CI. Dipl. ABT & Ac. (NCCAOM), LAc

Leg Length Discrepancy and Low Back Pain By Whitney Lowe, LMT

Back Pain Caused by Rectus Abdominis Trigger Points By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Spondylolisthesis: An Elusive Cause of Low Back Pain By Whitney Lowe, LMT

Back Pain: Often a Pain in the Gluteus Medius By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Straight Talk on Scoliosis By Ken Piercy, MTI, CST-D; guest author for John Upledger, DO, OMM

Sciatica By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Treating Piriformis Syndrome By Whitney Lowe, LMT

Pain Caused By Low Back Ligaments By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Upper Back Pain By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Short Leg Syndrome: Part Two By Erik Dalton, PhD

Relieving Sciatica :  Timothy Agnew Massage Therapy Journal (PDF)

Research on Back Pain and Massage

Reinforcing the Value of Massage for Back Pain Annals of Internal Medicine Report: Massage is a Successful, Cost-Effective Treatment By Editorial Staff Massage Today

Massage for Back Pain: Let’s Look at the Research By Peter W. Crownfield

Massage for lower back pain -massage research blog

Books on Back Pain

Leave a Comment