The spine can become damaged or injured in many ways, and the symptoms presented depend on the location and degree of the spinal injury. Spinal problems may be caused by an accident, an infection, a disturbance in blood flow to the spine, or a disease such as multiple sclerosis, that alters nerve function.
Spinal problems can cause a patient major physical and psychological suffering and anyone suffering from spinal problems is advised to seek immediate medical attention from a physician. A patient presenting spinal problems will first have their symptoms assessed by a medical professional. They may then be sent for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan so that the spine can be looked at in more detail. Once a diagnosis has been sought, an effective treatment method will then be determined.
Massage for spinal problems is a common form of integrative treatment. During a massage for spinal problems, the massage therapist will deal with sore areas by gently pressing the area in a circular motion, increasing the pressure when the pain experienced subsides. The hands are used to glide up and down the spine from the neck to the base of the spine and back again, pausing wherever tenderness is experienced. Tender areas along the spine may also be treated with the use of constant yet moderate finger pressure on the spot lasting around 90 seconds in duration. The pressure is directed against the spine and the opposite side of the body should be raised up against the pressure in order to relax the muscle treated. The movements made during a massage serve to increase blood flow to the spine, reduce pain and tension, improve motion of the spine and reduce anxiety.
The effectiveness of massage has been investigated by Tiffany Field, Maria Hernandez-Reif, Sybil Hart, Tory Field, Iris Burman, Bernard Brucker and Miguel A. Diego of the Touch Research Institute of Miami, Florida. The study looked into the effects of massage for specific areas of the spine and involved twenty participants. The participants were split into two groups: a massage group and an exercise group. Patients in the massage therapy group were in receipt of two 40-minute massage sessions per week for a period of five weeks. Patients in the exercise group were required to practice exercises targeting the neck, shoulders, arms and back twice a week for five weeks. While both groups benefited from the treatment they received, the group in receipt of massage therapy reported increased muscle strength, greater wrist motion range, reduced anxiety, and improved mood.
Daniel C. Cherkin, Karen J. Sherman, Richard A. Deyo and Paul G. Shekelle conducted a review of the evidence presented by studies looking into the effectiveness of massage, among other therapies. The review involved evaluating and analyzing the findings of randomized, controlled trials of the effects of massage therapy, acupuncture and spinal manipulation on non-specific back pain, published from the year 1995 onwards. Three of the randomized, controlled trials evaluated massage, particularly for spinal problems. Evaluation of these three trials led to the conclusion that massage is effective in improving sub-acute and chronic back pain.