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Massage May Be Best Approach for Back Pain


For those having trouble getting rid of back pain, Hirt recommends trying several things together for optimum benefit, like massage, medication, and acupuncture. By working with a healthcare practitioner experienced in treating back pain, you can find the best combination of available therapies based on your individual problem.

If you'd like to visit a massage therapist for back pain, heed the advice of Marlene Cohen, a nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork. She is the owner of Health to the Third Power, located in Falls Church, Va., a suburb of Washington. She sees all kinds of back-pain sufferers, and Anne Kanter is one of her satisfied customers.

Kanter first started seeing Cohen for tight muscles in her upper back but soon learned that massage therapy could also help her recurring lower back problems. She sees Cohen about twice a month and also comes in for a visit if she feels the familiar twinges and muscles knot that are typical harbingers of more severe muscle pain.

Cohen treats Kanter mainly with deep tissue massage, although Kanter also does some muscle strengthening exercises at home. Since she began seeing Cohen about three years ago, Kanter has not had a recurrence of the severe muscle spasms that kept her bedridden.

Cohen's advice on finding a good therapist for your back pain is the following:

  • Make sure the therapist is trained and experienced in dealing with your kind of problem. Ask about credentials and check them out. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork offers a locator service for trained experts in your area. You can visit their web site at
  • Your therapist should ask you detailed questions about your injury and the location of the pain before starting therapy, in order to determine which therapy is best. "Someone might come to me and say my back hurts, but the reality is they did something in their arms or neck," says Cohen, "and the lower back pain is the referred pain."
  • A good therapist usually has a host of things to offer a back-pain sufferer. In addition to massage, Cohen offers stretching, muscle rotation, joint rotation, cross-fiber friction, and ice.
  • A massage therapist should know never to work on a swollen or inflamed area, as this can make the injury worse. Such an injury requires ice and rest before massage can be given.

If you suffer from back pain, here are some things you can try at home:

  • For a new injury, remember the acronym RICE. This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
  • For ongoing back pain, back stretches are helpful. The key to these stretches is to move slowly, breath with each stretch, and keep your back fully supported. Often, the health care practitioner you are seeing for your back pain can teach you appropriate stretches. Yoga also offers good exercises.
  • Once you're moving again, keep moving. Walking and swimming are both good exercises for the back.
  • Always check out several other avenues before you consider surgery.

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