How to Give a Lower Back Massage
This article was originally published by LiveStrong.com.
Lower back pain is a common complaint among athletes and non-athletes alike. According to the Massage Tools website, lower back pain can result due to poor posture, a strain from lifting something the wrong way, an injury from a fall or stress resulting from too little exercise. Massage can loosen and help to realign tight, strained muscles. Stretching and deep muscle massage are the most effective treatments for lower back pain and discomfort. Consult your doctor before receiving a massage to make sure it won't interfere with any ongoing condition or other therapies.
Rub your hands with a lotion or oil to prevent friction as your hands move over the back. You also can squirt some of the oil directly onto the back to lubricate the skin more efficiently.
Apply light strokes at the beginning of the massage to warm up the lower back. Called effleurage, the light touch can include rubbing oil gently with your fingers. According to the Sports Injury Clinic website, effleurage should last for about five minutes to acclimate the person to your touch and prepare him for more intensive rubbing.
Push your hands upward, toward the heart, because that's the direction in which the blood flows. As you begin with the light strokes and move to stronger rubbing, keep the strokes moving from the tailbone up through the lower back. Return your hands to the bottom by sliding them gently along the person's sides.
Use circular kneading rotations with your hands after you warm up the back. Press with slight pressure, using your palms and your fingers to break up knots and move toxins that have accumulated in the muscles. Called petrissage, you can alternate this kneading with the initial light strokes for an additional three minutes before engaging stronger strokes.
Work your thumbs over the top of the buttocks with increasing pressure. Press your thumbs in the center of the lowest part of the back and move them in circular motions outward toward each side, then upward toward the center of the back.
Place your thumbs in the center of the lowest part of the back and splay your fingers out to the sides. Press down and maintain the pressure as you slide your thumbs up toward the middle of the back. Run your fingers lightly down the sides and repeat the upward sustained motions five or 10 times. Finish the massage with additional effleurage to cool down the muscles.
While the person may grunt when you hit a tight knot, she should not feel intense pain. Listen to her, and lighten up the pressure if she indicates she is feeling too much pain. Significant pain could indicate more serious complications and you should discontinue the massage, the Mayo Clinic advises.
If you aren't trained in giving deep-tissue massage, the Mayo Clinic cautions, because there are a number of risks associated with the techniques. You can inflict injury if the person has arthritis, open wounds or osteoporosis. Blood clots can loosen and cause a stroke or heart attack. Though rare, you could also cause internal bleeding, paralysis or other nerve damage if not careful.
Learn more about massage therapy by checking out our Massage Therapy blog.