As massage therapists many of us have worked with clients experiencing back pain. We have probably performed techniques we thought would work and made suggestions to our clients for home care. Maybe none of this worked effectively and caused you frustration as well.
Have you ever experienced severe back problems?
Several years ago, I had an unfortunate incident that irritated my back immensely. At first, I thought it would go away in a few days. To my misfortune, it progressed rapidly.
The problem was not diagnosed immediately because I was on a monthlong camping trip and don't particularly like to go to doctors, especially ones I don't know. I would wake up in the morning not being able to move well, had difficulty walking, couldn't hike and would fall down at my knees. There were even days when I couldn't move at all.
What to do?
After dealing with this problem for quite some time, even simple things like walking or yoga class was out for me, including lifting, bending or climbing. Eventually, I went to see an orthopedic doctor who told me my disc had deteriorated totally and that I would not be able to walk and needed surgery. Both of those comments did not work for me at all, so I pursued my options.
Believe me, I tried all types of massage, whether it was deep tissue or Relaxation, and bodywork, from craniosacral therapy, myofascial release and trigger-point therapy. Unfortunately, after the session, I was in more agony than when the session started. There were days that even the thought of someone touching me made me cringe. I tried gentle yoga again, but became stuck in a position and could not remove myself from it very gracefully. It created excruciating pain.
I had to find options that would work for me.
My healing process
What I found for my own healing process was a variety of options that would work over the course of time. While I am not here to endorse any one method or product, the combination has helped me become functional once again, and I hope it will help you or your clients dealing with similar issues.
The first thing I did was purchase a machine called a Gazelle for $99, which allowed for me to walk easily on a level plane whenever I could manage to move. Sometimes it was only two minutes at a time. I had to have patience, something that was a challenge.
I also realized that many of the experienced bodyworkers I had seen did not have the sensitivity or skills to address my issues. I had to receive the work in a side-lying position for comfort or have a pillow placed under my stomach to ease some of the discomfort. It was difficult in the prone position.
I found that appropriately applying resistance stretches aided the low-back muscle tension, as did working my legs and abdominals. Yet, all of this was temporary.
Unfortunately, most therapists were too aggressive and quick to apply techniques they thought would help. I hobbled away more often than not, suffering for days.
An exciting revelation
I went on another camping trip a couple of years later and thought sleeping on an air mattress was going to be disastrous. To my surprise, it was the first time in two years that I woke up briskly and with limited pain. Therefore, I decided to buy a Sleep Number bed, which is basically an air mattress. I also discovered the company gave massage therapists a substantial discount. Within two days of sleeping on my new bed, I did not have any of the severe pain that for years I was accustomed to waking up with. It no longer took me an hour to start moving. My body was also regaining some function that it lost. This was the most exciting and helpful discovery to date.
During this whole process, I had to limit my massage practice so I decided to take a job as a customer service representative. Sitting all day was not good, and it aggravated my symptoms. The company was the manufacturer of an algae product, and it was suggested I take its formula Blue Manna. It was a natural anti-inflammatory Cox-2 inhibitor. Within days, I received relief and no longer needed over-the-counter pain medications. The algae is also high in omegas, which was an added benefit.
I also included other minerals and vitamins into my regimen, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin D3, to name a few.
I thought I could start working out at the gym again and remove some weight I had gained due to my inactivity, but soon found out my body was still not ready for anything aggressive, not even a treadmill.
Water aerobics was the only type of exercise that was gentle enough on my body. The message is patience and gentle care.
It is now four years into this journey of mine and although I have improved immensely with supplements, easy movement exercises and patience, I still have my issues if I overdo myself in any way. I decided to search for something I could use at home.
Recently, I saw an infomercial for a product called Back2Life. The process of this home equipment and how it was to affect the low-back muscles made perfect sense to me, so I decided to try it. I liked the fact that it looked gentle on the body and that I could do it at home whenever I had time.
My first treatment on the unit was quite surprising. I immediately felt my sacrum shift placement, energy moved down my legs and the gentle rocking/stretching movement eased the tightness in the low back and hips. After only a few days of usage, I continued to improve and experienced less pain.
Today, I can lay flat on my belly for a bodywork session and I can hike for short distances without any pain or repercussions. I can perform most gentle yoga stretches and wake up without pain. I can walk up steps without pain and, best of all, I can get down on the floor again and play with my grandchildren.
This lesson, more than anything, made me extremely sensitive to my clients' needs and how to appropriately guide them to recovery.
The healing process is ongoing. I did not have to undergo expensive surgery, for which I am grateful. Most days I am pain-free and back to providing massage therapy. Of course, I have to be diligent with my program and respectful of my body, continuing to be gentle. Less is more!
My advice to those of you experiencing similar issues is to honor your body as you would tell your client. Be gentle with yourself. Take time to heal. Find the method or methods that work best for you, and set up a regular schedule to take care of yourself. Walk on level ground and don't sit for long periods. Implement supplements that will support your musculoskeletal system. Adjust your massage table higher, so you are not leaning over or bending for hours. Find a sensitive and qualified therapist. I did, finally!
Think positive. See yourself healthy, be gentle to yourself and, most of all, have patience.