How Physical Therapy and Sports Massage can help resolve Back Pain.

Back pain is one of the most major forms of musculoskeletal degeneration and dysfunction in the adult population today, affecting approximately 70-80% of adults. Research shows back pain to be more prevalent amongst workers in confined areas (such as offices), workers in manual labour (such as farming and construction), people who sit for longer than 3 hours at a time. The cost in financial terms is in the millions. Also, sports people and people exercising have a high percentage of back pain due to overtraining, doing the wrong exercises in the wrong way, and having muscular imbalances waiting for an injury to happen.

Postural assessment is of utmost importance in assessing lower back pain. After assessing which muscles are short/tight and which ones are long/weak, with relation to the low back pain, sports massage together with corrective exercise is one of the most effective modalities in treating, rectifying and preventing the condition.

The following client came to see me suffering from back pain. Jane is in her early 30’s, works as a teacher, and for many years has played hockey to a high standard. Jane recently took up weight training to improve the strength of her leg muscles. After 1 month she started getting lower back pain, and this worsened to the extent that 8 weeks later she could hardly walk because of the pain.

When I saw Jane for the first session she walked into my office with the look and postural movement of a woman in her 60’s. I assessed her condition and undertook very gentle massage work to ease tension and increase comfort, and gave advice on what to do for the next few days.

On Janes 2nd session she was walking easier, and so I spent 40mins carrying out various tests to ascertain where the injury was and what was contributing to it. I also carried out tests to remove the possibility of a herniated/prolapsed vertebrae disc. My investigation revealed that Jane had an area of muscle tissue which had contracted and spasmed so much that the pain was referring to the low back. This muscle, called the Quadratus Lumborum, has connections to the top of the hip and bottom of ribcage, and had developed significant trigger points (areas of muscular contraction which was fixed) which was referring pain to the lower back. By carrying out advanced sports massage trigger point release therapy I was able to assist Jane in releasing the tension in this muscle, therefore giving great relief to her lower back.

On Janes 3rd session her lower back pain had subsided. Before she embarked on her exercise program again I carried out a detailed postural assessment. This revealed that her front of thigh muscles were over tight, causing her hips to tilt forwards, which could then contribute to her low back pain. I treated this problem. As a preventative measure I taught Jane a corrective exercise program to balance the muscles around her hip area, therefore preventing strain on the lower back.

I saw Jane 2 months later and she reported no pain at all and she was enjoying playing hockey and lifting weights. What was most important though was that before she lifted weights she carried out her corrective exercise program I had given her as a warm-up.

To summarise, I have treated many people with low back pain, and the cause has nearly always been an imbalance in the muscles around the hip area. This can effectively be treated alongside a preventative exercise /mobility strategy which I design for each client to reduce the risk of further back problems.

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