Back Pain Treatment with Massage

Recently, we had a client who called with an acute case of back pain. He walked in the door doubled-over looking like a question mark. Only in his 20s, his back pain was recurring due to weak core and instability during physical exercise and lifting weights.

The pain's focal point was on the right side of his mid-back, just off the spine. By every measure, verbal and hands-on assessment, everything indicated to a slipped disk, also known as a bulging disk.

Intervertebral disks are gel-like substances contained within tough membranes. They have many functions, mainly shock absorption and spinal nerve protection.

Due to a variety of factors: weak back muscles, too heavy a load, disk membrane weakness, degeneration, the gel-part of the disk protrudes into the nerves causing debilitating pain, often shooting down the back and into the legs.

To make matters worse, the muscles surrounding a slipped disk, go into a spasm as a protective mechanism to minimize movement and any further damage. 

If a slipped disk is not severe, no medical intervention (surgery) is needed. As the body rests and relaxes, the disk typically goes back in, although that may take a few weeks. 

The muscles chronically contracted in the process do not, however, go back to their original relaxed state, and may stay contracted in a spasm for months. 

Our client came in during the acute phase. My suspicion was that his slipped disk was still out. He could barely walk. 

Massage Treatment for Slipped Disk

1. It took a while to find a comfortable position. The client was not able to use the massage table. It was excruciating to lie face down, or in supine. The only tolerable position was side-lying. We used the Thai floor mat, with a pillow between the knees and under his head. 

2. At first, I checked his spinal alignment which was normal. No vertebra appeared to be out of sync. 

3. Then, I spent a good amount of time gently working to relax the muscles on the right side - where he felt the most pain. My suspicion was that the muscle spasm was on the left side. That is usually the case with the spine. The left side tension causes the disk to slip to the right. 

4. His muscles and connective tissue responded well to the massage and relaxed layer by layer. I was able to work deeply and close to the spine after fifteen minutes. I also found several tender trigger points. Holding these points was very uncomfortable for the client, but it worked to further relax the spasm. 

5. Finally, while still on the right side, I gently tractioned his spine - rocking and lengthening it by pushing down at the hip and up at the upper ribcage. My intention was for the slipped disk to slide back in, especially with all the muscles now properly relaxed. 

6. We repeated the whole process on the left side. 

After the hour, the client got up and straightened up completely which he was not able to do for several days. His eyes beamed at me. He tried to do some twists - I immediately stopped him warning that the area was still very delicate and he needed to take more rest. 

As a long term solution, I recommended strengthening his back muscles. A few exercises that he would need to do every day. Strong muscles on both sides of the spine push the disks back into place, and support challenging physical movements. 

by Slava Kolpakov

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