Massage and Ergonomics for Back Pain

November 19, 2019

Tennis balls are a great tool for massage which helps to stretch the muscles
Courtney Nguyen

Back pain is one of the most common reasons one is not able to participate in activities of daily living, misses work, and/or goes to their doctor for evaluation. According to studies, 80% of people in the world have back pain. Because of this high percentage, back pain is very difficult to treat. The thing with back pain is how one manages it with the proposed treatment options. Some treatment options may include over the counter medications including analgesics and/or anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, topical pain relievers, injections, physical therapy, chiropractors, and/or massage. Many times when someone has back pain, one of the first thoughts is “I need a massage”.

A study was performed on 400 people who had back pain for at least three months to see how beneficial massage therapy is. This study included people who were partaking in treatments such as physical therapy, medication management, chiropractor treatment, or no treatment at all. It was found that massage therapy helped to improve people’s daily functioning and their pain scores. It helped a significant amount of people to actually have complete back pain relief. This is quite impressive in regards to results. If you do not have to take medications or do anything invasive to provide relief then this certainly be the first option for pain relief. The unfortunate thing regarding massage is that this is not something generally accepted by insurance, and therefore would require you to pay out of pocket for this service. Massage is can be very expensive, so performing a self-massage will be able to provide the same benefits at no cost.

Tennis balls are a great tool for massage which helps to stretch the muscles which results in increased circulation. Massaging yourself with a tennis ball on your back helps to relieve tension in the multiple back and core muscles that intersect in the lower back. To use the tennis ball you apply a specific pressure to a stiff or aching spot in a muscle by trapping it between your body and something else, such as a floor or a wall.

One tennis ball massage for the back has the following steps:

- Begin by placing two tennis balls in a sock and closing the open end with a rubber band

- Lay on your back on a padded surface with your feet flat on the floor, placing the sock with the tennis balls on either side of the base of the spine

- Stay there and breathe

- Inch the balls up the spine, holding and breathing at the painful spots

  • When you get to your ribs, it may be too painful to continue. You can do one of two things: you can stop at that point or you can move to a bed which would decrease the amount of pressure

- Continuing with the sock containing the two tennis balls, proceed doing the same thing on the shoulder blades (or scapula). Continue breathing

- As you get closer to the actual shoulders, you can now use one single tennis ball without the sock

- Place the single tennis ball at the top of one shoulder, near the joint

- Lift your hips as if you are going into a bridging position, the higher the bridge the more the pressure that will be applied

In addition to massage, lifestyle modifications such as ergonomics are important to help relieve back pain. Technology is the biggest component to everyday life, whether for work or recreation. Many times ergonomics are not taken into consideration, which ultimately results in back pain. One adjustment that can be made includes a standing desk converter. A standing desk converter is something that can be placed on an already existing desk and provides the ability to alter a work station to be ergonomically correct whether in a standing or sitting position. FlexiSpot offers a standing desk converter which is able to provide you with the perfect height adjustments for your space, which is also easy to adjust with just one hand. The desk has a keyboard holder option (this is an optional feature as you may be using a laptop and not actually need this), which again helps to make sure the body is in a proper alignment when using a computer. Proper body alignment when using a computer includes an upright posture with the back and neck straight not leaning forward, head/face straight towards the screen, with the elbows tucked close to the body.

In summary, back pain is a very common condition to have and you are not alone if you have back pains. There are many ways back pain can be treated including medications, massage, chiropractors, injections and/or lifestyle modifications. A study was performed which showed massage therapy to be quite beneficial with back pain. Massage is something that can be done at home on your own instead of spending money. In addition to massage, lifestyle modifications which would be ergonomics such as a height adjustable standing desk will put your back on the pathway for pain relief. If you are able to relief and/or prevent back pain on your own in simple ways, why not then? The key is consistency, and so it is important to not take breaks from partaking in these actions. Our backs have a significant job in keeping up with our posture, holding the weight of our core, twisting, and balance just to name a few things. Therefore, it is important to treat the back with considerable care. 

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