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Reading Clinic | Sports Park, University of Reading, RG6 6UR Closed

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Sports Massage Therapy for Back Pain Featured

Evidence supports massage for back pain

"The study can give primary care providers the confidence to tell patients with chronic low back pain to try massage" Munk said at Indiana University.

Have you had physiotherapy and find the muscles still feel tight? What about a massage?  

Need a massage for the sore neck?

Achey back when sitting?

Pain when driving?

After playing golf?

When cycling?


Back pain is by far the greatest burden on healthcare.  Its complex and can be really painful. 

If we develop back pain, most cases are gone in 6 weeks.  However, it may persist and start life as a low grade ache that becomes a more intense and persistent pain that could lead to stopping you from being active.  Exercise is one of the best things you can do for back pain and we strongly advocate this therapy at Core Body Clinic in Reading.  However, we see lots of sports men and women who get pain while they are exercising.  So, exercise helps…………but what if it’s painful to exercise????????? Conundrum! What do we do about this?

 Back pain is all too often focused on the very robust structures like the disc, fact joints and the ligaments.  These do get injured and the do cause pain.  For the vast majority for us who develop a low grade ache when we are sitting we often forget about the huge strands of muscles that run along our spines from the base of the back to the base of the skull.  Collectively, the erector spinae could have a lot to answer for (list of muscles from head to pelvis – there is a few!!: erector spinae - spinalis; erector spinae - iliocostalis; erector spinae - longissimus; interspinales; intertransversarii; latissimus dorsi; levator scapulae; levatores costarum; obliquus capitis inferior; obliquus capitis superior; rectus capitus posterior major; rectus capitus posterior minor; rhomboid major; rhomboid minor; serratus posterior inferior; serratus posterior superior; splenius capitis; splenius cervicis; transversospinalis -multifidus; transversospinalis -rotatores; transversospinalis -semispinalis; trapezius).

 Muscles are the drivers of movement.  They keep us up standing, enable us to move and walk, and maintain our posture.  Through the course of the day the muscles become fatigued, full of lactic acid and as a result they begin to feel tight and stiff.  The stiffness is really a response from the nervous system and results in further tightening of the back muscles.  We see many patients who seek a sports massage with the physio or massage therapist and have tried to stretch out tight and sore muscles only to find they end up more sore and tight!  The tightness is merely a reflection of how wound up the nervous system is at that time.  Therefore, one of the best ways to alleviate it is to apply manual therapy techniques, like sports massage therapy.  Passively mobilising the muscles helps to improve small blood vessel circulation, de-sensitise the nervous system and restore the muscles back to their flexible state.  Essentially, the stroking and manipulation of the tissues helps to drive the release of endorphins.  This settles the nervous sensitivity and gives the feeling of the muscles becoming less tight and sore.  If the nervous system is in a less tense state then it will cease to place the body on high alert – hence the tightness in the tissues reduces. 

At Core Body Clinc, our physiotherapists and sports massage therapists help athletes and professionals by regularly performing Sports Massage.  We have found this to have a training effect that helps the nervous system adjust to a more relaxed state in everyday functional tasks.  We also find it to be a huge compliment to training and flexibility.  Stretching also has a training effect. Regularly performed it will train the muscles to adjust to a more flexible length.  Coupled with massage, the reduced sensitivity in the muscles allows the nervous system to detect less tightness in the muscle.  Therefore, the muscle reacts less when stretching allowing greater flexibility potential.  It will also react less when sitting so the muscles don’t feel like they are cramping up when you are sitting at the desk.

Research shows that massage can be of benefit provided that the patients do not have any other pathologies that could be contributing to their back pain.

 "The study can give primary care providers the confidence to tell patients with chronic low back pain to try massage" Munk said at Indiana University.

Research shows that Massage can have a clinically meaningful effect after 12 weeks for patients with even the most difficult of back pain.



Some interesting finding in the study were:

  • Adults in the baby-boom and older generations tended to be much more likely to experience clinically meaningful changes.
  • Obese patients experienced significant improvements, but those improvements were not retained over time.
  • Patients who were taking opioids experienced improvements in their pain from disability in some cases but were two times less likely to experience clinically meaningful change compared to those who were not taking opioids.

So, massage can help with back pain.  It’s not a cure but as part of a program of rehab could be massively helpful!




Last modified onThursday, 10 August 2017 17:07
Adrian Wagstaff

Adrian is the Lead clinican at Core Body Clinic.  He is a well known and experienced physiotherapist who qualified in 2001 from the University of Huddersfield with a BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy.

Website: www.corebodyclinic.co.uk