Back Pain Treatment: Body Work

Body work is an umbrella term for the many manual therapy techniques used to promote relaxation and treat ailments through massage, lessons in proper movement, changing posture, exercise, and other body manipulations. Some types of body work may be learned and continued at home, while others require a trained professional.

Body Work, also known as Bodywork, may involve passive therapies in which the therapist works on your body while you sit or lay down, or it may involve active events, in which you work together to build strength and flexibility through various exercises and movements. These treatments may involve you actively movement your body in order to provide it with strength and stability, so that you are able to prevent acute pain outbreaks in the future. Or these treatments may involve hands on manipulations in your body to break up scar tissue, loosen tight muscles, or fix subtle dislocations in your joints. Ultimately, these treatments are designed to stabilize your spine, increase energy levels, promote healthy circulation, and stabilize your musculoskeletal system.

Manual therapy techniques that fall under the umbrella of Body Work therapies include:
  1. Massage
  2. Reflexology
  3. Rolfing
  4. Aston Patterning
  5. Feldenkrais Method
  6. The Alexander Technique
  7. Acupuncture
  8. Acupressure
  9. Tai Chi
  10. Qi Gong
  11. Ayurvedic Medicine
  12. Yoga
Regardless of what people think about the clinical benefits of these treatments, the consensus among believers and skeptics is that they are safe and relatively painless. Many of these treatments come from Ancient India and Chinese medicine, with the beliefs that invisible energy fields within and radiating in our bodies may become blocked to produce disease, and unblocked through the manual application of pressure points and certain body movements. Other techniques are much more modern, and involve the analysis of people's movements and the identification of the way people carry themselves which puts too much pressure on the joints. Due to stress, injuries, bad posture, and poor workplace ergonomics, the soft tissues in our backs become overworked, strained, and stretched beyond a range they were designed to be used. Our muscles become tense. The joint spaces that prevent bone on bone friction narrows. These body Work treatments are designed to separate the fibers in the muscles to break up trigger points and scar tissue. The manual therapies are designed to increase circulation to the tissues that need healing. The instructional therapies, such as Aston Patterning and Alexander Technique teach us how to move our bodies better so than individual elements in them don't get worn out.

Let's take a closer look at the theories behind these treatments and where you may find the qualified professional who provides them.

Massage: Massage is probably the manual therapy technique that people are most familiar with. You have received some sort of massage therapy, either from yourself or after an injury. There are many forms of Massage Therapy, though the one that is most commonly taught and practiced in the US is Swedish Massage.

Massage therapy typically involve putting pressure on the person's body - using the hands, knuckles, elbows, and feet - to break up concentrated areas of tightness or scar tissue development on the muscles and fascia coverings of the muscles. Massage therapists use their hands and body to reduce tension and stress, increase circulation, and promote overall well-being. Massage therapy is thought to have the following health benefits:
  • Calm the nervous system
  • Stimulate the circulation of immune system cells
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Trigger the release of endorphins
  • Break down scar tissue
  • Remove tension and cramps from muscles
  • Increase blood flow
Other forms of massage therapy include Acupressure Massage, Amma Massage, and Acupressure Massage, and Deep Tissue Massage.

Reflexology: Reflexology involves manipulating or applying pressure to certain areas of the feet or hands that correspond with organs in the body to eliminate energy blockages that may produce pain and disease. Practitioners of reflexology claim it can relieve a wide variety of ailments. The idea that there are invisible energy fields that affect our health and susceptibility to disease is similar to Eastern health systems such as Tai chi and Qi Gong. This system focuses on mapping and manipulating certain points in our ears, feet, and hands to unblock these energy fields, thereby eliminating disease. Though these energy fields are invisible, the mapping of the hands, feet, and ears has been well documented in charts, illustrations, and books. These charts and diagrams may be studies and mastered so that Reflexology practitioners may suspect which areas of the feet/hands should be eliminated to fix specific problems in the body. For example, the Reflexology charts say that by applying pressure to the medial side of the ball of the foot, on the plantar surface (bottom), we may be able to treat problems with the patient's heart.