Getting rid of back tension

Back tension is a very common condition that millions of people deal with worldwide. Its potential causes cover a long list ranging from mental stress all the way to inappropriate use of muscles. But even a bad posture and muscle inactivity can cause back tension. At the onset of pain our body is simply trying to tell us that our balance is off.

Not everybody deals with back problems the same way. While some of us will try to pop the back, others will try some quick emergency stretches. A small percentage hopes that a simple over the counter pain medication will at least give them a break from their pain for at least a few hours or until they can go se their massage therapist.


Test your body

If your backpain lasts for weeks, I think, it is a good indication that something has to be done to correct it. When is the last time you truly took a very good look at your body? Take off your shirt and stand in front of the mirror. Is one shoulder higher up than the other? Can you see your collarbone? Then look at your posture from the side view. Is your lower back arched? Is there extra weight in the front that puts pressure on your lower back? Are your shoulders rolled forward? Is your head tilted forward?

Having tension of pain in your back can be cleared up by becoming aware of your posture and correcting it by understanding what needs to be corrected and how to go about. As long as you have bad posture and keep up your bad habits that encourage such posture your tension will always be there. A massage therapist can temporarily clear the pain by releasing taut bands or trigger points. Though, if you don't participate in practicing preventive care, the tension will always return.

What to do

As a massage therapist myself I do recommend regular massages to bring back movement within restricted joints and to release trigger points. In addition, regular static stretches of at least 60 seconds per unit, especially after workouts or overuse of muscles are very important. But most of all, learning how to strengthen your body by encouraging healthy posture will be everything in the battle to eliminate back tension for good.

Stretching the bicep and chest

Self-help for neck, shoulder & upper back tension

If your shoulder, neck and head are tilted forward then you probably have trigger points in between your shoulder blades. These muscles are actually stabilizers and shouldn't be stretched. So it is important to keep those muscles tight by bringing the shoulder blades closer together again, releasing upper back tension. This can be done by squeezing together the shoulderblades as much as you can and then releasing them again.

In addition to this simple exercise and the stretching exercise, practicing the following posture awareness: Relax your shoulders and push them down. Push your head back so it is in a straight line with your back but don't lift your chin. Your chin should be slightly tilted down to encourage that straight line.

Self-help for lower back tension

If your lower back is giving you problems it could mean that you have shortened muscles in your buttock and legs or that you have weak abdominal muscles. Sometimes the tightness can push on top of the sciatic nerve causing the onset of piriformis syndrom. In the worst case scenario you could have a herniated disc. If you suspect the latter it is best to see a physician first before performing any stretches. Regular exercise involving the hamstring and buttock muscle can put some tension on your lower back. This tension can be reduced by regularly stretching the hamstring muscles. Again, the stretches should be held for at least 60 seconds. Toned abdominal muscles can help you take tension off your lower back as well. To correct your posture for your lower back, simply stand with your back against a wall. The back of your head, the shoulderblades, the buttock and the heels of your feet should touch the wall. Tilt your belly inward to encourage the entire back to touch the wall. Stay balanced while you try this exercise and don't tilt your shoulders forward just so your back can touch the wall. This is a bit challenging at first but concentrate on one body part at a time, starting with the head moving down all the way to your feel.

Hamstring stretch

Backtension due to emotional stress

Stress can have all kinds of negative effects on the body. If we experience stress our back starts to tense up. This can be felt in the shoulders all the way down to our lumbar region. Sometimes we experience such severe pain for no apparent reason we need to look for the causes somewhere else, our emotional well-being. Consider relaxation therapies such as hot stone massages, lomi lomi massages, yoga, deep breathing exercises. Sometimes even fear or anger from the past manifests itself in our muscles. Craniosacral therapy, osteopathy or even consulting a psychologist could help you break the back-pain pattern.

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