Back Pain Treatment: Active Release, Sports Massage and Myofascial Release Treatments for Low Back P
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Back pain is a regular part of life for so many New Yorkers and Americans. Whether it's a past injury or a current one, a chronic injury or an acute one, a serious condition or a mild one, chances are that you or someone you know has struggled with nagging back pain at some point in your lives.
Manual therapies such as Active Release Techniques, Myofascial Release and Sports Massage in general can have a significant impact on low back pain, especially when combined with other injury recovery therapies. Below are video demonstrations of low back pain treatments.
What is Active Release?
Active Release, also commonly known as ART, Active Release Techniques and Active Release Therapy, is a clinical manual therapy specifically designed to treat muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint tissue and nerves. It is a movement-based manual therapy therapy that helps restore range of motion, break up scar tissue, release muscle adhesions, increase blood flow and reduce chronic and acute pain.
A gentle blend of stretching and massage using no oil, Myofascial Release is a relatively slow and non-invasive therapy. It involves sustained pressure to the affected tissue and is beneficial in large part because, by not using oils or cream, a “shearing” affect occurs which allows the tissue to move and slide better. Improved movement and gliding of fascia and muscles takes pressure off of a specific area and reduces the mechanical stress and repetitive micro-trauma that impaired movement leads to.
Sports Massage is a general term referring to the combination of a range of manual therapy techniques aimed at enhancing athletic performance and fitness training. Whether it is on location at a sporting event or in a therapist's office, the goal is function and performance. The three general categories of sports massage are pre-vent, post-event and maintenance. Common modalities used include deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, active release, myofascial release, compression, therapeutic stretching, Swedish massage and others.
Treatment Options for Back Pain
There are many treatment options for low back pain. Which ones are most appropriate depend on the diagnosis, the severity, the current symptoms, treatment goals and preference. Surgery should be your last resort, especially for anything related to the spine.
ART, Myofascial and Sports Massage for Low Back Pain
The following videos demonstrate Active Release, Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage and Myofascial Release treatments for specific muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and joints that affect the low back. Which ones I use depends on many factors including the type, severity and duration of the shoulder injury as well as client goals.
PLEASE NOTE that these videos are NOT instructional videos for health providers to use for learning, certification and teaching. These videos are strictly for client education and any use of these videos or the Active Release name, trademark or logo without up-to-date certification is strictly prohibited and may result in legal action by Active Release Techniques, Inc. and On Your Mark NYC, LLC.
Myofascial Release for Low Back Region
Gentle Myofascial Release on the low back is often how I begin low back treatments. It helps me assess what is happening with respect to spine, pelvis and rib positioning as well as gives me information about muscle and fascial tightness. It's also a great way to begin warming up and loosening some of the restricted areas in the low back and pelvis.
Psoas / Illiacus
These muscles are very important but often very problematic. They are powerful hip flexors and the psoas specifically also flexes and creates some stability in the spine. Unfortunately these muscles can wreck havoc on the low back region because they can become very shortened, fibrotic and inflexible, primarily because of prolonged hours upon hours of sitting. When these muscles are tight and short, they will pull the pelvis forward and compress the lumbar spine.
They can also in essence help de-activate the glute muscles which need to be active and strong for low back injury prevention and recovery. Active Release and Trigger Point Therapy treatments on the psoas and illiacus can be very uncomfortable but the benefits are well worth it. Releasing these muscles can be a game changer when it comes to chronic low back pain.
Quadratus Lumborum (QL)
The QL is another very important but also trouble-causing muscle when it comes to low back function and health. When it is tight it often pulls the pelvis upward and affects the position of and tension on the spinal joints, including the discs and nerves. It is a deep, strong and flat muscle that is often very sensitive but responds well to deep tissue massage and Active Release treatments.
Latissimus Dorsi ("Lats")
The "lats" is one of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. It is the dominant muscle during pull-ups, rowing, swimming and most pulling motions in general. The downside with this muscle in terms of shoulder injury risk and recovery is that it contributes to internal rotation of the shoulder joint. Excessive internal rotation can put stress on the anterior shoulder, increasing the risk of shoulder impingement, biceps tendonitis and rotator cuff strains as well as poor posture. It is often the forgotten muscle in shoulder pain as well as low back pain but can be crucial to injury recovery. In over 75% of shoulder injuries and in 50% of cases of low back pain, I incorporate Active Release treatments and myofascial release on the lats.
These muscles are important postural muscles that very often get stained, either directly or secondary to an injury to surrounding tissues and joints. For example, if there is compression of the facet joints or very tight hip flexors pulling the pelvis and spine forward, or if there is a herniated disc, these muscles will very often go into overdrive to protect the injured areas. In addition, these muscles can get very easily strained due to bending motions while lifting heavy weights and objects.
The Lumbar Erectors are very easy and important to treat in most cases of low back pain and injury. Deep Tissue Massage, Trigger Point Therapy, Myofascial Release, Swedish Massage and Active Release Techniques are all great ways to treat these muscles and the combination of multiple modalities can be very effective. It's important to note that if there is a primary injury that treating these muscles alone at best will only give temporary relief but treating them as part of a comprehensive strategy is potentially very helpful for getting rid of nagging and serious back pain.
The thoracic spine is the largest segment of the spine. Whereas the cervical spine has 7 small vertebrae and the lumbar spine has 5, the thoracic spine is made up of 12. All 12 ribs attach to the sides of each thoracic spine vertebra, essentially making the thoracic spine the anchor point for the containment system of the body's major organs. Mobility in the thoracic spine is important but often times restricted due to poor posture.
Glutes / Piriformis / Hip Rotators
It is very rare that I do not treat the glutes and hip rotators in some way when treating clients for low back pain. These muscles commonly develop trigger points, muscle adhesions and decreased range of motion in so many people, even those without back pain. Sometimes I'll only need to treat individual muscles or just the muscles on one side of the hip and pelvis. This depends on many factors including where the pain is and what the person's posture and biomechanics tell me about what may be relevant to their low back issues.