Back pain. We've all experienced some sort of back pain at one point in our lives. But the reasons that cause it can be oh so different depending on the individual. For instance, me. The illustration below highlights the cause of my back niggles that creep up everyone once in a while. That's right, I'm to blame. In the last 5 minutes I have done all of the above while typing this post. #truetalk
The above is easily fixed. I just need to stop being so lazy at the computer, and sit up nice and straight. But that's easier said than done.
Your body is always having some crazy super hero fight within itself, daily. Your muscles have agonists and antagonists to each other. Antagonistic pairs of muscles create movement when one (the prime mover) contracts and the other (the antagonist) relaxes. So an example for your back would be back extensions. Back extensions are exercises that require you to lift your upper body from a prone position and slightly hyperextend your back, like below:
This exercise (aptly named "the super man") is used to strengthen the muscles in your lower back as well as your abs. The antagonist muscle group here is called the Rectus Abdomens. So the agonist would be your Erector Spinae (shown in the above picture in red). A lot of the muscles in your body work as these agonists & antagonists.
One another note, your poor erectors are in a constant good vs evil battle against gravity keeping you upright, they are working over time constantly, just an FYI.
Most upper back pain (think in between your shoulder blades/scapulae) will be caused by heavy computer use, driving, even staring into your phone for hours on end. This is because most people will round their shoulders in the above actions. Once your shoulders round it puts your rhomboids (in between your shoulder blades) in a stretched/lengthened position. While they are in that position your pectorals (pecs) will become shortened. When your muscles stay in those positions for long periods of time, they will go into a spasm trying to get things back to where they were. So while your upper back is causing you grief, and that's where you want that nice soothing massage to set you straight, it's your pecs that need the work. Stretching at home and deep lengthening massage application will begin to correct this postural no no.
A lot of the time lower back pain will be caused by a weekness. This weekness can manifest in your abdominals, glutes and even hamstrings or all 3. Massage, low impact strengthening exercise and stretches will all help with the above. Don't jump into deadlifts, heavy lifting or hardcore yoga straight away. This will only exacerbate things. Talk with your health care professional to make a plan of attack. With all muscle imbalances, this won't be cured in a few sessions. It took a while for it to get like this, now it'll take time to get back to your new normal. Remember, muscles have memory. Once you get them to their new resting length, they'll like it there.
If your back pain is deep an located to one side, and is agony when you move a certain way, this could be from an acute strain. These happen from improper heavy lifting, sport injury, I've even done it to myself getting off the couch too quickly. It's best to see your physiotherapist or osteopath to get a proper diagnosis.
If your back pain has suddenly happened ice will be your best friend. Apply the ice pack (wrapped in a towel, so it's not directly on your skin!) for 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off. Repeat this 3 times. What we're wanting to do here is achieve vasoconstriction which will lead to vasodilation as soon as the ice removed. Vasodilatation is a fantastic natural healing mechanism.
If your back pain is a chronic thing, heat's your buddy. Grab one of those microwavable heat packs or a hot water bottle. This can be kept on for as long as you'd like.
I think the most fascinating thing about pain is that it's all perception. What can be crazy insane life altering pain that is seared into your memory for the rest of your life for one, may just be a stubbed toe on a coffee table in the middle of the night to another. So when someone complains of pain, don't shrug it off, it's real to them. When I'm working on a client during a deep tissue massage, going over a 7 on their pain scale is a no, no. Deep tissue will always be a bit uncomfortable at times, but remember, you don't need to spend the next hour silently sobbing into the head rest, always communicate how you're feeling!
Also "the more pain, the better" during a massage isn't the best way to get where you're going. Beating on you won't do you any favours, and won't fix what ails ya.