Hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from low back pain. Most folks turn to medications and/or surgery to help deal with the pain. Some are seeking out alternative therapies and getting mixed results. A smart strategy for managing and healing low back pain is to combine a pain relieving approach, like massage therapy, and a strength and stabilizing regime, like Pilates. When combined, back pain sufferers experience huge leaps forward in their condition.
Research indicates that massage therapy creates significant improvement to a broad spectrum of conditions that cause low back pain. One study showed “…(S)ignificantly greater improvements in disability and bothersomeness of symptoms were seen at 10 weeks in both massage groups compared to those who received usual care.” Coincidentally, scientific analysis of low back pain sufferers showed that those doing pilates experience ”greater improvements in pain and functional ability compared to usual care and physical activity.”
In my clinical experience with clients, massage therapy of the the low back, hips, glutes and hamstrings creates immediate pain reduction and improvements in range of motion and function. It has also been my experience that the length of these effects have not been as long or as consistent as I’d like them to be. In an effort to improve my own back health as well as that of my clients, I started studying and practicing various exercise systems for low back pain. In doing so, I discovered the enormous benefits of the double whammy.
The two-pronged approach of therapeutic massage and intelligent exercise, like Pilates, generated the long-lasting benefits I was desiring for both myself and my clients. It is now my standard practice to treat all low pack pain issues with a combination of massage therapy techniques and exercise sequences. They work together in the following way:
The massage therapy is crucial for reducing the pain and releasing spasms around the injury. As you might imagine, pain is not conducive to exercise. So, the massage therapy, in helping the client feel good, gives them the ability to do exercises. Inversely, if one were to just do exercise, it would be difficult to stick with the program if they had to move through pain.
The corrective exercises then strengthen the muscles and structure of the lumbar region, helping to relieve pressure on discs and nerve endings in the low back. The exercises also help prevent future relapse, because the core strength stabilizes the low back during activities that may have previously accused injury (i.e lifting something heavy, gardening or starting the lawn mower).
To apply this to your own life, there are a couple of ways to go about it.
1) Reach out to your network of friends and healthcare professionals and see if they can refer you to a therapist that does both hands on therapy, like massage, as well as skillful instruction of corrective exercises. Sometimes, you can find a good physical therapist or functional fitness trainer that can do both.
2) If you can’t find the an all-in-one practitioner, use your network to find the very best in massage and corrective exercise (like pilates) and see them both. Make sure you let them know that you are doing the work in tandem. If you like, you could ask the separate practitioners to speak to one another to coordinate the best possible treatment plan for you.
3) If you already have one type of practitioner but not the other, ask them who they would suggest.
4) Stick with it! Commit to at least six sessions with each practitioner to see lasting results.