Getting the Right Massage for Low Back Pain

Massage therapy can provide substantial healing and pain relief for people suffering from low back pain caused by muscle tension and strain, if the correct muscles are targeted.

See Massage Therapy Considerations for Lower Back Pain

A skilled massage therapist can provide substantial back pain healing.

I asked certified massage therapist Kate Fish, who works at in a chiropractor's office, to explain how she helps heal her clients' pain with massage.

See Chiropractic Treatments for Lower Back Pain

She explained that isolating and rejuvenating the main back muscles that can have the biggest effect on low back pain caused by stressed muscles.

See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain

Kate stresses that two important muscles, the quadratus lumborum (QL) and the gluteus medius, may play a bigger role in causing pain than most people realize, saying, "If you strain either of these muscles, the pain can be severe and debilitating.

Dysfunction in these muscles (the QL and the gluteus medius) can lead to severe and debilitating low back pain." Tweet this to share on Twitter.

Kate recommends that you specifically ask your massage therapist to spend 60 minutes on these two muscles.

Spine Anatomy Interactive Video

1. Quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle massage

Ask your therapist to massage the QL muscle while you lie on your side for 20 minutes on each side (40 minutes total).

The QL muscle, which connects the last rib to the pelvis, is responsible for pelvic stability and structural alignment. It is a common source of low back pain.

See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain

The muscle can become irritated when the lower body is engaged while the upper body is still. For example, activities that could irritate the QL muscle are:

Sharp, stabbing pain, urgent pain in the low back is a symptom of a hypertonic (tight) QL.

This muscle must be stretched and massaged simultaneously by your therapist in order to reduce lower back pain. Typically, clients can get relief by combining treatment of the QL muscle with 20 minutes of massage on the gluteus medias.

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2. Gluteus medius massage

After working on the QL muscle, ask your therapist to focus on the gluteus medius for 20 minutes.

The gluteus medius is a posterior hip (or buttocks) muscle that frequently causes pain when the QL muscle is irritated. The gluteus medius becomes inflamed as it tries to compensate for the QL’s dysfunction. Your massage therapist should focus on simultaneously stretching and massaging the gluteus medius as you lie on your stomach.

Kate has been able to provide significant pain relief to numerous clients by using these massage techniques in only one session. She recalls,

"One of my clients had experienced severe low back pain for 3 months. After his doctor ordered an MRI, he was worried he would have to have surgery. He visited the chiropractor where I worked as a massage therapist, and I assessed that his QL was ischemic (so tight that the blood supply got cut off). Working on these specific muscles, I loosened them and increased their blood flow, and the client was pain-free after one session."

See Pulled Back Muscle Treatment

Most likely, your massage therapist is well-versed in the muscles that cause back pain, but don’t hesitate to speak up and specifically request this type of massage if you suspect your pain is due to muscle dysfunction.

See How to Use Tennis Balls for DIY Lower Back Pain Massage

Thank you to Kate, who works at Goode Integrative Health Care for sharing her expertise to help our readers achieve back pain relief through massage therapy.

Learn more:

Neuromuscular Massage Therapy

Back Muscles and Low Back Pain

Allison Walsh Author Image
Post written by Allison Walsh