There are many different causes of hip and low back pain and therefore many different approaches that we can take to relieve that pain. The pain can range anywhere from mildly irritating to outright excruciating. With that in mind, here’s a list of 5 effective techniques that provide a broad range of pressures, from hands off, to very light touch, all the way to “get in there and dig it out” deep.
Reiki (or other type of energy work) – Ok, so technically this is neither massage nor bodywork, but if your pain is so high that you can’t stand to be touched, Reiki (or some other form of energy work) might be able to help. Most forms of energy work can be done with NO touch at all. I have used Reiki many times when a client’s pain has been too high to tolerate any touch, and in most (but not all) cases the pain lessened enough to allow a light touch therapy like craniosacral therapy or myofascial release to be used. If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of Reiki, it may help you to know that more and more hospitals are using Reiki practitioners in various departments to treat hospital patients. There is also a growing body of research proving the efficacy of Reiki and other energy work techniques. Check out the Center for Reiki Research website. Access is free but you do have to fill out a membership form in order to get access.
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) – This is a very light touch technique. In fact, the maximum pressure used is about the weight of a nickel. In a nutshell, CST works to release restrictions in the connective tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and brain all the way from the head (cranio) to the hips (sacral) and everything in between. These restrictions can cause us a whole lotta pain, but in an ironic twist of fate they are best released through light sustained pressure. Most people experience deep relaxation during a CST session, and many experience a lessening of pain as well. Since several causes of hip and low back pain involve the sacrum in one way or another, as well as the back and shoulders, CST is a great technique to release some of the restrictions that may be causing your pain.
Myofascial Release (MFR) – There are many different forms of myofascial release, some using a lighter but still firm touch (John F Barnes method), some using much deeper feeling techniques (Rolfing), and everything in between. MFR is great because it addresses all levels of connective tissue (fascia) in the body and isn’t limited to the brain and spinal cord areas. Fascial restrictions in the legs and abdomen are often involved in hip and low back pain. MFR can release those restrictions, and in many cases through its use of sustained downward pressure on the fascia, can also work on some of the muscles involved as well. After all, that’s what the name means; myo = muscle, and fascia = connective tissue.
Swedish Massage – Swedish massage gets a bad rap as nothing more than a fru fru, fluff and buff technique, but nothing could be further from the truth. You see, Swedish massage actually consists of 5 different types of strokes: Effluerage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (kneading strokes), friction (a warming stroke using rubbing, wringing, or circular movements), tapotement (tapping or beating strokes), and vibration (rocking, shaking, &/or trembling movements). Those 5 strokes together will loosen up all of your muscles quite nicely. The problem is that many therapists only use the first 2 strokes (even though we are taught all of them in massage school), and that just isn’t enough to loosen up some of the body’s most stubborn muscles. If you can find a therapist who does a true Swedish massage, you’ll be surprised at just how amazing your hips and low back will feel afterward.
Deep Tissue Massage – This term is often misused to mean “I want a massage that goes deeper than a fluffy, relaxing massage.” Unfortunately, some therapists misuse it this way too. In reality, it’s a method of getting at the deeper layers of muscle in the body, and it requires advanced training. Since there are at least 9 muscles in each hip (plus several others that either begin, end, and run through it), you can probably deduce that there are several layers of muscle in each “cheek”. Deep tissue massage techniques are the perfect way to get at and release these ultra deep muscles. Just make sure that your deep tissue therapist has advanced training (there are many, many deep tissue techniques that they could be trained in) and aren’t simply indicating that they use more pressure than you’d get in a fluff and buff massage.
So there you have it. 5 massage and bodywork techniques you need to check out the next time you have low back or hip pain. And NO, I don’t do all of these techniques; I chose the ones that are both effective and fairly easy to find a therapist for. After all, it doesn’t do you any good if I recommend the absolute best technique but there are no therapists within 250 miles, now is there? Don’t get me wrong, though; if you’re in the Grand Rapids Michigan area and have low back or hip pain, I’d love for you to book with me. But that’s not the point of this blog; I write this blog to empower you to take better care of yourself.
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