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By Matthew Snow, L.M.T

backpainThere is nothing like low back pain to let you know how much your low back is involved in even the simplest of movements. Something as simple as sitting down is excruciating and involves all of your concentration to avoid severe pain.  Low back pain can be frustrating as the pain can be just fine and dandy as you move about your day but the minute you lie down to go to sleep the pain keeps you up at night and prevents you from restful sleep.

Massage therapy is an effective treatment for many types of low back pain. Even for conditions involving arthritis, bulging or herniated discs, and pinched nerves: massage can help!

Soft Tissue Disorders

The low back is a complex structure with many joints and tons of soft tissue to support and protect the sensitive joints and nerves in the area.  The low back is a truly remarkable design as it provides you with a great deal of ability to move. But that in itself is the problem with the low back. It provides the great ability to move while also having the burdensome task of providing stability of the weight of your upper body and transmits the force of your lower body through the pelvis.

Once upon a time it was thought that most low back pain was to have a structural component to it and often surgery was used as a treatment. But that is no longer the case and most low back pain is thought to have soft tissue components. Most Doctors do not want to do surgery as it is not always effective and often creates other problems

Soft tissue provides so much of the support of the low back.  The low back muscles are anti-gravity muscles and are prone to overwork and fatigue. Massage can help
soft tissue disorders by helping to increase circulation, improve flexibity, and improve motion.

Many of the muscles and soft tissue of the low back can send pain down into the buttocks, front of the hips, and down the back of the thigh. It is common that soft tissue pain is overlooked.

Soft tissue disorders include:

  • Muscle strain
  • Ligament sprain
  • Trigger points

The piriformis helps to stabilize the base of the spine during forward bending movements. This muscle is stressed in forceful twisting movements such as golfing. It’s referral pattern causes pain that stays in the hip and can travel down the thigh.

ql trpt

The quadratus lumborum is a stabilizer of the spine. This muscle is stressed from poor sitting habits and carrying objects on the hip. It’s trigger point referral pattern can be felt at the base of the spine, top of the hip, side of the hip, and front of the hip.





The gluteus medius stabilizes the hip on one leg during walking. Even though this is a muscle of the hip, it is involved in many low back problems. This muscle can be stressed during movements that require a strong movement side to side which is required in many sports. This muscle can send pain to the base of the spine, the hip, and down into the thigh.















Joint Damage: Structural Disorders

But even when low back pain is structural, there is much that massage can do as it treats soft tissue.  Common structural problems of the low back include:

  • Arthritis
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Facet dysfunction
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfuction
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylosis
  • Spondylothesis


When there are structural problems in the low back the muscles reflexivley spasm to protect the area from further injury and damage. Spasm is a tightening of muscles to limit movement.

This tightening of muscles often makes the area feel stiff, tight, and limit movement. At times the spasm can make the pain worse and keeps the area from healing.  

Massage aimed at increasing circulation to the overworked and tight muscles can greatly help to provide relief from these very painful conditions. Care is taken not to release the spasm as this is natural and the body’s response to prevent further damage and pain. 

Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain

Research has shown that massage therapy can help low back pain.  Many more doctors recognize the benefits of massage therapy and it’s role in helping low back pain. Whether your low back is related soley to soft tissue or has a structural component massage can help support the healing process. 


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 Matthew Snow is a Licensed Massage Therapist in Cos Cob, CT. If you would like to schedule or make an appointment call (203) 936-6379 or email