Can Massage Therapy Hurt More Than Help Your Back Pain?

Dealing with chronic back pain can require a customized treatment plan that involves a combination of different treatments.

A popular treatment option that can help reduce back pain is massage therapy. However, in some cases, massage therapy can make back pain worse if the condition you are suffering from requires other treatment. In these situations, massage therapy will not be effective in reducing back pain and can even make it worse.

Before deciding if massage therapy is the right treatment for your back pain, talk to your orthopedic doctor about the condition causing your back pain and whether massage therapy is a viable option for you. Let’s take a look at what massage therapy is, which type of back pain it is effective in reducing, and which types of back pain it cannot treat.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy refers to different techniques of manipulating the soft tissues of the body to treat health symptoms and conditions. Massage therapy can involve pressing, rubbing, and applying pressure to soft tissue all over the body using the fingers, hands, elbows, and tools.

Benefits of massage therapy include:

  • Increase blood flow – Adequate blood flow throughout the body prevents waste products from being stuck in certain parts of the body and promotes healing. Massage therapy increases blood flow to soft tissues in the body, so it can heal and reduce pain.
  • Relieve muscle tension – Massage therapy takes tension and tightness out of muscles. It helps reduce muscle spasms, inflammation, aches, and stiffness.
  • Reduce stress, anxiety – Massage therapy helps improve relaxation, increase energy level and improve physical and mental performance. This can reduce stress, anxiety, and even improve sleep quality.

When Massage Therapy Works for Back Pain

Massage therapy can effectively reduce back pain if the pain is caused by conditions such as:

  • Muscle strain or tension
  • Arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints
  • Fibromyalgia, which causes pain and stiffness throughout the body

In general, massage therapy is effective in reducing back pain caused by most musculoskeletal issues such as post-surgery or post-injury sprains, strains, tension, or tightness.

Don’t Use Massage for Back Pain When …

Massage therapy is a great way to reduce many types of back pain. However, in some cases, back pain may require other treatment.

Conditions for which massage therapy would not be appropriate:

  • Broken or fractured bones – When a bone is broken or fractured due to injury, it needs specific types of treatments to heal the broken bone. While massage therapy can help reduce pain, it cannot heal a broken bone. If your back pain is caused by a fracture, talk to your orthopedic physician about treatments that can help heal the fracture. After the fracture heals, massage therapy is a great therapy for reducing tension and stiffness, promoting blood flow, and restoring movement and flexibility in the back.
  • Nonorthopedic causes of back pain – Back pain is often caused by orthopedic conditions that involve the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or soft tissue in the body. However, back pain can also be caused by nonorthopedic issues such as organ problems. For example, kidney infections and appendicitis can cause pain in the lower back. For situations like these, massage therapy will be ineffective because it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the pain.

If you experience back pain, massage therapy can help reduce pain and stiffness and help restore adequate mobility and flexibility. Before beginning any type of treatment, talk to your orthopedic physician about your back pain so you can get a diagnosis and recommendation for the best treatments available for your particular condition.

OrthoUnited is devoted to diagnosing, treating, and preventing adult and pediatric musculoskeletal system injuries and conditions.  If you are experiencing back pain, talk to the board-certified orthopedic physicians at OrthoUnited for trustworthy treatment recommendations and great service. Call (844) 469-2663 to make an appointment today.