Massaging your own back can be the first step to treating lower back pain, but it can be difficult to know where to start. This short guide will walk you through the basics of massaging your back at home, so you can quickly ease your pain and prevent future discomfort.
Massage therapy has been shown to help chronic lower back pain significantly; there’s no reason that you shouldn’t take advantage of it yourself! The first step to self-massage, however, is knowing how to properly give yourself a massage in the first place—and that’s exactly what this guide will teach you.
1) Use your thumbs
Your hands are a great source of pain relief for back problems. Start with a gentle massage using your thumbs on your partner’s back. Start with their shoulders and work down towards their lower back. This part of your partner’s body is usually tense and can help alleviate muscle spasms in that area.
2) Hold for at least 30 seconds
Whether you’re providing a massage or getting one (or even if you’re injured and can’t receive one), hold stretches for at least 30 seconds. That may not sound like much time at first, but after about a minute or so your muscles will likely start trembling and shaking as lactic acid builds up in them.
Hold for longer if possible—it could make all of the difference. This can be especially helpful if you have a chronic back problem that causes constant pain.
If you’re struggling with severe back pain from an injury like a herniated disc, consider consulting with a professional physical therapist who specializes in working with patients who suffer from chronic low back pain issues.
3) Don’t push too hard
I’ve seen many people push too hard when massaging their back. Hard pressure is good for sore muscles (think of a deep tissue massage) but with back pain it can actually make things worse. Start off with a very light pressure and increase as your body allows you to.
It may be painful at first but try not to push through it; your muscles will only grow more tense and begin to spasm if you do.
You should feel relief from any pain within about five minutes of beginning a massage treatment but don’t move on to another area until you do. Any negative feelings or discomfort are signs that you should ease up on your pressure or take a break completely.
4) Give yourself a break in between each massage
The key to a successful massage is making sure you are relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the better your muscles will be able to absorb and take in all of those wonderful oils and balms that help reduce inflammation.
If you try to do it all at once, your body will fight against you because it’s saying that it can’t relax if you keep touching me! Ideally, work with a massage therapist who has experience in helping people with back pain.
5) Repeat with both hands
It’s easy to see how repetitive movements can lead to pain. Imagine someone who spends hours a day hunched over a computer keyboard or texting on their phone.
Every time they sit down, their back has to absorb all of that pressure. Instead of focusing on one specific type of exercise, think about your lifestyle and determine if there are any repetitive movements you could scale back or eliminate altogether.
If typing is part of your job description, consider getting voice recognition software so you don’t have to strain your hands in order to stay caught up with work emails and other communications.
6) Focus on the points that are really tense and sore
Muscles can feel tight for a number of reasons. Using massage to relieve back pain involves knowing which muscles are stressed and paying special attention to them. Generally speaking, pay more attention to areas that are harder to reach and/or more painful than other areas.
If your back is hurting near your shoulder blades, for example, make sure you spend plenty of time massaging there. You may also want to work on relieving tension throughout your shoulders and upper back by including an extensive upper body massage as part of your session.
The overall goal is complete relaxation in order to help prevent future back pain or injuries. Once you know how tense certain muscles are, you’ll be able to give a personalized massage—and make sure that every minute counts!
7) Spread out the tension evenly across your back
After you’ve taken off your shirt and lay down on a massage table or flat surface (bed works too), start by positioning yourself so that your hips are slightly higher than your head. This position is great for people with back pain since it will help distribute some of your weight evenly across your back.
After about five minutes, roll over so that you’re lying on your stomach with one leg draped over at a time and get those knots out from another angle.
The easiest way to do that is to place both hands on one side of your body, press down gently and drag them from under shoulder blades all the way down to hips then repeat with other hand position. Start by using gentle pressure when massaging sensitive areas around joints.
8) Breathe deeply throughout the whole process
It’s often advised to breathe deeply while massaging back pain because breathing techniques help to relax both your mind and body. And, since back pain is often caused by stress or tension in your muscles and spinal column, a little breathing work can go a long way.
Deep breaths have also been shown to increase blood flow throughout your body; an increased supply of oxygenated blood can help alleviate muscle soreness. Give it a try for yourself if you tend toward tense muscles!
9) If you don’t feel much relief, keep going until you do!
If you’re massaging someone else and you don’t feel any difference in tightness or pain within ten minutes of massaging, keep going.
The most effective treatments for back pain are usually a combination of heat and massage. It will take longer than ten minutes to see a big difference. If you do feel improvement after only ten minutes of massage then move on to your next step!
10) Go to sleep afterwards, it will help your muscles relax overnight.
a bout of gentle activity is best avoided after a massage. While it’s tempting to hit your gym or get back to work straight away, massaging your muscles should be enough for them to recover.
If you need a break from work, just take a nap instead—it will help your muscles relax overnight and ease any pain you might have in the morning. It’s also worth speaking with your doctor if you find that back pain is interfering with your day-to-day life.
There are a lot of people out there suffering from back pain for one reason or another. Whether it’s because of injuries, genetics or just plain bad posture, it can be extremely frustrating. However, massaging is an excellent solution to relieving and even avoiding future pain.
The best part? It’s easy! If you follow these simple steps and tips you’ll know how to massage for back pain in no time!