-Terri Fitzgerald, LMT
LBP effects millions of people every year, physically and financially as it directly correlates to lost time at work therefore lost wages. There is also an emotional toll of living with chronic pain. One goes from feeling strong, capable and competent to feeling debilitated, tired and not able to do the same tasks or perform at the same level as they did before. Chronic pain stresses the nervous system and the body spends more time in flight or fight resulting in; increased resting heart rate, increased blood pressure, decreased motility of the large intestines potentially leading to chronic constipation. One of the most researched benefits of massage therapy is it’s ability to reduce stress. Studies have shown that after 20 minutes of massage; heart rate slows, blood pressure is reduced, immune function is enhanced, motility of large intestine increases. How does this happen? It’s referred to as the gate control mechanism. Each of us has an inherent awareness of gate control. When I stub my toe my first instinct is to rub it, hit my “funny bone” on my desk and I rub it. The brain senses and integrates pleasurable sensations over painful ones. Simple touch turns on gate control but skillful touch applied in the appropriate way for a short period of time also switches the body out of flight or flight and into rest and digest mode.
There are many causes of LBP that range from structural issues such as a herniated disk, spinal stenosis, to strains and/or sprains. All of these conditions have different root causes but have similar effects. They all compress pain sensitive structures such as soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Massage therapy can soften areas of compression and release tension in muscles contributing to low back pain.