Massage for Low Back Pain

How’s your low back feeling?  One of the most common requests we get in our Okemos massage studio is to help clients relieve their low back pain.  Some people want to decrease their need for pain killers, while others want to increase the pace of their healing, both of which are proven results in studies with massage and low back pain.  (1)   It’s not just consumers who are wanting help with it, either.  Increasingly, physicians are referring their patients to professional massage therapists to be part of care teams.   In a recent national survey by the American Massage Therapy Association, 48 percent of respondents indicated they were encouraged by their doctor to receive a massage.

What can massage do to practically address chronic low back pain?  A good massage therapist will use a variety of techniques and tools to assess and treat a client with low back pain.  A GREAT massage therapist will recommend things to do at home to continue improving.

You might think that one of the techniques most helpful in treating low back pain would be structural massage (deep tissue).  One recent study suggests that the benefits of massage for treating low back pain were evident and long-lasting, however the benefits were the same between relaxation massage and structural massage.  (2)  Surprising!  So when getting massage to help with low back pain, the rule of thumb is NOT “no pain, no gain”.  Choose a therapist who will listen and adjust their therapy according to your needs and preferences.

There are many causes for low back pain, some muscle-related, others related to different systems of the body (nervous, skeletal, etc).  If the pain is muscle-related,  your therapist should be able, after their assessment of your condition and body, to identify which, if any, muscle groups are tight and in need of loosening and which groups are over-stretched and in need of strengthening.  You can then apply that information to better shape your home stretching and strengthening routine.

There is definitely evidence for the use of massage as a tool in treating chronic low back pain.   So what are you waiting for?


(1)  Majchrzycki M, Kocur P, Kotwicki T. Deep tissue massage and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain: a prospective randomized trial. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014; 287597.

(2)  Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, Wellman R, Cook AJ, Johnson E, Erro J, Delaney K, Deyo RA. A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155:1:1-9,


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