With tension a major factor in back pain, relaxing your muscles - without using drugs - is surely a good thing to do, says Dr. Marcus. Muscle tension from exercise, injury or stress compresses the nerve fibers in muscles. Prolonged contraction interferes with the elimination of metabolic substances, which accumulate in muscles and surrounding tissues. The resulting inflammation can lead not only to back pain, but also to referred pain elsewhere, such as headache or neck pain. Massage helps relieve the pain while simultaneously reducing inflammation, correcting posture, improving motion, increasing the flow of oxygen and other nutrients and ridding the body of toxins.
Different Types of Massage
Massage techniques range from light touch for relaxation and stress reduction to more vigorous deep tissue massage that alters muscular tissue. Dr. Marcus warns that although deep massage is good for your muscles, pain is sometimes involved and you may feel achy afterward. You'll have to decide which type of massage works best for you...
- Effleurage, a stroking technique used in Swedish massage, is a gentle, sweeping stroke with various levels of pressure. Effleurage soothes and relaxes muscles and improves circulation.
- Deep tissue massage acts on the muscles and connective tissues to loosen toxins and get oxygen and blood moving. Drink plenty of water afterward to help flush toxins from the body.
- Swedish massage refers to a series of movements including effleurage, kneading (or petrissage), and tapping (or tapotement), to relax muscles and stimulate circulation.
- Shiatsu uses a sequence of rhythmic pressure held on pressure points to awaken acupuncture meridians along which energy flows in the body.
- Myofascial release refers to the separation of the layers of muscles by kneading and rolling. It releases the fascia (the sheath around the muscle).
These days you can get a good massage just about anywhere, says Dr. Marcus. To locate a massage therapist in your area, visit the Web site of the American Massage Therapy Association at www.amtamassage.org.
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