Massage therapy is one type of back pain treatment that may accelerate the healing of muscles that have become damaged due to nerve conditions and muscle strain. Massage therapy may be practiced by licensed massage therapists, and other healthcare practitioners whose clinical programs included the teaching of this practice. Therapists who provide massage therapy are trained to treat musculoskeletal and myofascial pain syndromes - that is, and pains involving the muscles and other soft tissues. These therapists manipulate soft tissue and muscle to release tension in these tissues, which is often the cause of chronic pain. Due to an injury, the muscles become tight in an effort to keep the body from sustaining a further injury. Some muscles suddenly contract to prevent a worsening of an injury to their own tissues, or they may contract in an effort to protect a more severe injury to the tissues around them, such as the nerves, ligaments, tendons, and bones. A sustained muscle contraction is known as a muscle spasm. In a related condition, the soft tissue that covers and protects the muscles - the fascia - may also become tense and tight - in response to injuries to the muscles they line and the tissues around them. Muscle spasms and muscle tightness, especially when they are sustained over hours, days, or weeks, may be the cause of chronic pain in some people. Fortunately, tension in the muscles and fascia are relatively short lasting, and the pressure to these tissues begins to release once their own tissues, or the tissues around them, have healed. In some cases, though, myofascial muscle tension remains even after the original injury has healed itself. In these cases massage therapy may be performed on these areas of chronic tension to finally relax the tight or spasming muscles. Massage therapy is not designed to directly treat soft tissue injuries, such as arthritis and spinal nerve conditions, but it may indirectly help the patient for many types of musculoskeletal conditions by enabling patients to have the ability to use their muscles again to treat their own injuries with rehabilitative therapies.
Massage therapy may be effective in treating lower back pain and neck pain.
The muscles involved in the movement of the abdomen (core), torso, and lower back, may go into spasm as the result of direct injury, involving the strain of their muscle tissue, or in response to the nerves or soft tissues they are associated with. In a direct injury, the muscles themselves may be strained or torn due to overuse, poor body mechanics, or an overload of the muscle (as would occur when moving an object beyond the means which the muscle was in a condition to perform). In response to an injury to the muscle, there is a reflexive response by the body. This reflexive response works in a similar way compared to if you were to accidentally put your hand into scalding water. In response to the contact with the hot water your hand is rapidly pulled away from the heat source, preventing a first or second degree burn from becoming a third degree burn.
This process works similar to the muscles. In response to an overload or sprain of the muscles, the body has a rapid response system in which the muscles go into contraction, in order to prevent a long term injury. This contraction of the muscle protects the body against any further movements that would be unsafe to the body and cause a more severe injury. This is a body response that is positive in most circumstances, and a vital injury prevention system by the body to prevent against serious injuries. There are some instances, though, where the muscle spasms and tension are bad enough as to be incapacitating or the cause of chronic pain. Prolonged tightness or contraction of the muscles is painful, and it prevents the patient from being able to use that those muscles comfortable having full use of the structures those muscles are associated with.
In order to reduce the tension of the muscles in these circumstances, massage therapy may be beneficial. There are many benefits to a massage therapy session, including:
- Improved blood circulation: when an injury occurs in the body, the involved tissues and cells may become injured or destroyed. The body responds to these injured tissues by sending out alarm massages to the brain, which results in our experience of pain. The body also responds by causing increased blood flow to the injured areas, which will result in the formation of new and healthy cells and tissues. Massage therapy may improve blood circulation, which will accelerate the healing process of the injury.
- Massage increases endorphin levels: The pressure and stimulation of the body's tissues causes a release of endorphins, which results in a central nervous system response that includes a euphoria and pain relief.
- Massage therapy relaxes tight and spasming muscles. As the tension in and around the muscles breaks up, the muscles will feel looser and the patient will have an improved range of motion.