The back and neck constitute a large part of the body. These two areas are prone to tension accumulation and when this occurs, it can cause the affected individual great physical and psychological pain. Acute lower back pain, described as pain which has lasted less than six weeks in duration, may resolve itself with little or no intervention. However, lower back pain which is sub-acute or chronic, lasting longer than six weeks in duration, is likely to require greater focus.
There are several forms of massage for lower back pain. Classic (Swedish) massage and Thai massage have been proven to relieve chronic lower back pain. Classic massage is a technique that relaxes muscles in the area in receipt of the massage therapy through the application of pressure. The area is rubbed in the direction in which blood flows back to the heart. Thai massage, on the other hand, is a technique which pulls and stretches the area of the back and neck. Massage oils may be used to reduce friction during massage.
Massage is associated with improved blood circulation and this is thought to aid the recovery of muscle strains and pains. Massage relaxes the muscles, allowing them to achieve an improved motion range. This relaxation of the muscles is indicated as beneficial in the prevention of insomnia. Massage results in an increase in the levels of endorphins in the body, the chemicals associated with improved mental well-being, and it is this that leads to the effectiveness for managing chronic back pain.
A study conducted in 2001 by researchers at the Touch Research Institute based at the University of Miami found massage for lower back pain to be effective in reducing the experience of pain. Massage was also found to improve mental well-being by lessening feelings of depression and anxiety and by enhancing sleep.
More recently, researchers working for the Cochrane Collaboration analyzed a range of studies into the effects of massage for lower back pain. All the studies they looked into compared massage with a dummy treatment, a different treatment, or no treatment at all. The aim of the analysis was to discover the ways in which massage affected an individual's general well-being, quality of life, mobility, experience of pain and back-specific function. The trials investigated led to researchers to come to the conclusion that a combination of massage for lower back pain and exercises were more effective than massage for lower back pain alone. The subjects who had received massages for lower back pains in combination with exercise therapy were generally more mobile and experienced less pain overall.
The majority of healthcare practitioners recognize massage for lower back and neck pain as beneficial and actively encourage patients with back and neck pain to seek therapy as a complementary treatment.