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Massage for Neck and Back Pain?


Updated September 14, 2013

Question: Massage for Neck and Back Pain?

My husband and some of my friends are postal carriers and they are always saying that their backs, shoulders, and necks hurt. What type of massage should they get?


There are several types of massage they may be interested in. The most common type of massage in the United States is Swedish massage. It's also known as massage therapy.

Massage therapists apply oil or lotion on the skin and mainly use long smooth strokes. People who have never had massage before usually start with Swedish massage.

They might also be interested in deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage is used for chronic tight or painful muscles, postural problems, and repetitive strain. This type of massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue.

There is often some level of physical discomfort during the massage, as the massage therapist works on the deeper muscle layers. People usually feel sore for one to two days after the massage.

Another option is shiatsu, a form of Japanese bodywork. Clothing is usually worn during the shiatsu treatment, so it is a good treatment if someone prefers to remain fully clothed.

The therapist applies localized finger pressure to points on the body. Because the pressure is so localized, the pressure of shiatsu feels deep.

Your husband and friends may have partial insurance coverage for massage and should find out about that, because their coverage may limit the types of massage they can choose from.

Although it's no substitute for the human touch, a massage cushion may be worth considering. Some of them cost $100 or less. Massage cushions can fit on many chairs or can be placed on a sofa. Stores often have floor models for people to try. Compare features, because some massage cushions can give localized massages to particularly tense areas on the back.

Carrying a heavy weight every day, lifting while bending, and carrying weight asymmetrically can increase the risk of disc herniation and joint problems.

That's why in addition to massage, they may want to consult a doctor of chiropractic. Chiropractic may help to prevent damage and injury to joints, and there is evidence that it's as effective as conventional therapy at relieving some types of back pain. People are also usually taught self-care strategies.

Many chiropractic clinics offer massage therapy, so the two could even be combined.

Yoga might also help relieve muscle tension and improve strength and flexibility. It's something you could do together. Yoga classes cost about $10-$15 per class at yoga studios, and sometimes less at gyms and community centers.

And finally, your husband's family doctor should be aware of his symptoms to see if he needs further evaluation.

Anyone experiencing any of the following symptoms should contact their doctor immediately and before starting any alternative therapy:

  • Persistent back pain
  • Back pain that awakens you in the night
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
  • Numbness, weakness, or pain around the genitals, arms, or legs
  • Fever, chills, sweats
  • Any other unusual or new symptoms


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