If you’ve ever thrown out your back, you know how excruciating and debilitating it can be. You also know how difficult it can be to treat, especially if the pain turns into a chronic problem.
At some point in their lives, about 80 percent of Americans develop back pain that’s severe enough to send them to bed for at least a day or two. In all too many cases, they go on to develop chronic back pain that can ruin their quality of life for months or even years.
So-called “usual medical care” for chronic back pain includes painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy. But this approach often doesn’t work. In many cases, all those medications not only fail to relieve the pain and restore mobility. They also cause additional problems ranging from stomach irritation to serious gastrointestinal complications such as ulcers, bleeding or even a perforation of the stomach or intestine.
So it’s no wonder that many back-pain sufferers are willing to try alternative treatments that have fewer side effects. Although most such treatments haven’t been well-studied, there’s now good evidence that massage may be better than either medication or exercise for easing low back pain and it’s one of the most common reasons that we seek massage therapy.
Who Gets Back Pain?
Anyone can have back pain, but some things that increase your risk are:
- Getting older. Back pain is more common the older you get. You may first have back pain when you are 30 to 40 years old.
- Poor physical fitness. Back pain is more common in people who are not fit.
- Being overweight. A diet high in calories and fat can make you gain weight. Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain.
- Heredity. Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, can have a genetic component.
- Other diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
- Your job. If you have to lift, push, or pull while twisting your spine, you may get back pain. If you work at a desk all day and do not sit up straight, you may also get back pain.
- Smoking. Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the disks in your back if you smoke. Smoker’s cough may also cause back pain. People who smoke are slow to heal, so back pain may last longer.
For those who would like to avoid heavy doses of medication or possibly surgery, massage may be your best bet. A recent study demonstrates that massage therapy for back pain is more effective than other therapies and is most effective when used in conjunction with several therapies at once. This is a theory that we at Elm City Wellness highly encourage and keep a small but high-quality Rolodex of chiropractors, physical therapists, personal trainers, yoga instructors, etc. on hand to refer to you as part of your overall care.
To read more about massage and back pain:
>> “Study: Massage Helps Treat Low Back Pain” (Brenda Goodman, WebMD)
>> “Massage Gives Low Back Pain Relief, Albeit Temporary” (Dan Childs, ABC News )
>> “Got Low Back Pain? Massage Therapy May Rub It Out” (Patti Neighmond, NPR)