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Massage For Lower Back Pain

January 21, 2024

Lower back pain is the second most common cause of missed workdays due to illness, and the most common cause of disability. Most lower back pain is the culmination of postural distortions and repeated trauma.

It can be divided into acute and chronic pain. Acute lower back pain is typically produced by an injury. Chronic back pain is more of a long-standing pain that might originally have been caused by an injury or by poor posture and improper bending.

Lower back pain can be caused by

- lumbar disc injury and degeneration

- muscles misfiring and causing imbalance

- acute tissue injury of the lower back

-structural imbalance – sacroiliac joint dysfunction or facet joint irritation

- hip flexor strain

- emotional or energetic block in the pelvic area

Acute vs chronic back pain

When addressing lower back pain, it’s important to differentiate between acute and chronic conditions. An acute condition may be an injury that happened a few days or weeks ago or a sudden pain that started recently. A chronic condition is pain that is recurrent or constant and has been present for more than three months.

As a rule, acute issues are easier to treat because the body is still strong and hasn’t been debilitated by ongoing pain. A body with chronic pain is weakened both by pain and by compensatory abnormalities or restrictions in movement. Chronic lower back pain may be the result of an old injury, bad posture, improper diet, stress, lack of exercise, or digestive or menstrual problems. All applicable causes must be addressed to correct the condition.

Once we assess and identify the type of pain, we can decide what kind of treatment is appropriate.

The Assessment

Assessment starts with diagnostic questions then moves on to orthopaedic and muscle imbalance testing. Diagnostic questions explore the history of the pain and identify symptoms and lifestyle considerations. The orthopaedic assessment addresses the alignment of the hipbones and sacrum. In 90% of cases where lower back pain is present, there is a structural misalignment that needs to be addressed.

We first check the position of the hipbones. They may be tilted to the front, which causes constriction of the lower back, or to the back, which causes weakness and poor stability in the lower back.

We then test the sacroiliac joint for movement. The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum bone to both hipbones or iliac bones. It is often locked on one or both sides when lower back problems are present.

Finally, we conduct muscle testing to reveal which muscles are weak or not firing well, and which muscles are working

The Treatment

In Chinese medicine, we address acute pain as “Blood and Qi Stagnation”, which is a lack of movement of blood and flow of energy. The stagnation of energy and blood is caused by a blockage in the injured or painful area, and treatment is focused on re-establishing the movement of blood and energy to remove it.

In the case of chronic lower back pain, we primarily address the kidney energy in the body. A common symptom of deficient kidney Qi is lower back pain. In Chinese medicine, kidney energy is the main source of strength and the capacity to thrive. By strengthening that energy, we help the body to heal itself.

Acute lower back pain usually requires one to two treatments weekly for a few weeks, while chronic pain might need one treatment every ten days for up to several months.

Each ninety-minute treatment works toward correcting the issues identified during the assessment and addressing any constitutional issues that are present.

A typical example

A client complains of being tired and having pain in the right hip that radiates down the leg (commonly called sciatic pain). During the orthopedic assessment, we discover that the client’s sacroiliac joint is locked on the right side, and that the right hip is tilted forward. Muscle testing reveals that the gluteal muscles are weak and the psoas muscles are not functioning well, especially on the right side.

Treatment includes:


- unlocking the sacroiliac joint by inserting needles at key points

- resetting muscles by inserting needles in the motor points to restore firing

- addressing the anterior tilt of the right hip by inserting needles in specific point combinations

- releasing the root nerve of the psoas and gluteal muscles by inserting needles close to the vertebrae

- addressing the constitutional issues with point combinations that correct weak kidney energy


- deep tissue massage in the area

- stretching and decompression of the lower back, legs and feet (Thai Massage style therapy)

- acupressure in certain areas of the hips and back (Shiatsu style)

After the initial session, we will conduct a reassessment to see if the alignment has changed, and make recommendations for a treatment plan.

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