A close relative of acupuncture, Shiatsu massage for back pain is applied along meridians, or pathways through which energy is said to flow through the body. Shiatsu may feel a little like ‘bad medicine that must be good for you.’ The pressure of the shiatsu massage techniques, usually exerted with the ball of the thumb, sometimes elicits a few ouches and grimaces from back sufferers with tight muscles. This minor pain hardly ever persists after the treatment, but excessive pressure on the lower back can be injurious, particularly if used for sciatica treatment, so you need to use someone who knows exactly what they are doing.
With its low level of long-term success, Shiatsu wouldn’t normally get much acclaim, but its value has to be taken seriously for three reasons.
Benefits Of Shiatsu Massage For Back Pain
First, its ‘temporary help’ rate is very good and on par with aspirin and wet heat for short-term relief.
Second, wet heat was usually the first step taken by back sufferers to alleviate pain. Shiatsu, on the other hand, was usually the treatment of last resort for patients with the most intractable problems. And it typically got results where heat did not.
Third, the temporary help provided by Shiatsu usually lasted long enough for patients to get involved in long-term rehabilitation programs.
According to respondents in a US survey, Shiatsu massage for lower back pain, or acupressure massage, was the most successful, drug-free treatment available for temporarily relieving low back and neck pain.
Shiatsu Massage Vs Swedish
Swedish massage, by comparison, with its mostly smooth gliding movements, was soothing and relaxing, if not healing and pain-relieving. It was also virtually pain and risk-free. The one exception – which applies only to severely disabled back sufferers – is that lying on your stomach for up to one hour, even with a small pillow tucked under you, can aggravate lumbar pain.
Shiatsu massage for back pain also carries this element of risk. But the risk can be minimized or avoided as follows:
- When you’re on your back, put a folded towel or small pillow under your neck and head, and one or two pillows under your knees.
- If you think you can lie on your stomach without aggravating your problem, tuck a pillow under your abdomen. If the pillow is thin, and you feel a pull on your lower back, fold the pillow in two. In any event, make sure the pillow is under your abdomen and not under your chest.
- If you feel uncomfortable lying on your stomach, try lying in an oblique position: lie on your side, tuck a folded pillow against your abdomen, and lean into it. Keep leaning towards the stomach-down position as far as you can without turning onto your stomach. Experiment with different positions for your legs, making sure mat you keep at least one of them bent.
Note: Many massage therapists, and virtually all chiropractors, feel they cannot work on you unless you lie on your stomach. So check before you go. As with every other aspect of back care, remember to believe in your judgement about yourself. If you are unable to lie on your front for any length of time, try a shiatsu foot massage as an alternative.
One patient swears by a combination of massage and homeopathy: ‘I find regular shiatsu back massages with arnica cream, followed by an arnica oil rub, give me the only long-term relief from what is constant pain.’