Low Back Pain: Which Muscles Should Be Massaged?
Massage therapy is known to provide healing and pain relief for most lower back problems. When the correct muscle or muscle group is targeted, pain, especially ones caused by wearing a prosthetic limb, can be controlled at its source.
Wearing a prosthetic limb requires the body to adjust and use muscles differently. And pain caused by a prosthesis can become more pronounced if the gait isn’t corrected immediately. Going for a gait makeover combined with the right massage therapy can effectively reduce pain.
There are two major muscles that are essential in supporting and stabilizing the lower back and hips: the gluteus medius in the buttocks and quadratus lumborum in the lower back. When the biomechanics of these muscles change due to fatigue and strain, you may experience stiffness, decreased mobility, and lower back pain.
Below, we look at each of these muscles and how to prevent or minimize pain.
The quadratus lumborum is the deepest back muscle that extends throughout the lower back. This muscle allows you to bend backward as well as bend your torso sideways.
Daily activities can tire out the quadratus lumborum. These activities include slumping when sitting, lifting while leaning over something (think getting something from the trunk of a car), running on rough pavement, and leading over a sink while doing the dishes.
Tightness in this area is characterized by a sharp, urgent pain in the lower back. You may also feel a dull, continuous ache with some stiffness.
The muscle may also develop a trigger point—an unmistakable nodule in the taut bands of the skeletal muscles’ fascia or be subject to direct trauma. All these can also cause lower back pain.
To reduce the intensity of lower back pain, the massage therapist must simultaneously stretch and massage the muscle.
The gluteus medius refers to the muscle in the buttocks. As a hip abductor, this muscle allows you to lift your thigh and leg sideways. It also keeps your hips leveled while standing on one leg, which is an important part of your gait cycle as you’re walking.
Although the gluteus medius is in the buttocks, the biomechanics of the spine and hip are interconnected. This is why issues in your hip muscles can trigger pain in your lower back.
You can experience pain in this muscle due to imbalance and weakness from several causes, such as sudden, strenuous physical activity, overuse of exercise equipment that requires hip abduction, and running on soft surfaces.
When you feel pain in the lower back and buttocks, it’s most likely coming from the gluteus medius. Pain may also be felt on the back of your thigh, along with fatigue and stiffness, which limits your walking capacity.
What to tell your therapist
If you’re getting a massage for lower back pain, ask your massage therapist to focus on these two muscles. Unless a specific muscle is injured from direct trauma, it’s more likely that the entire set of muscles is affected by stress, fatigue, and altered function—all common symptoms in prosthetic leg users.
Although your massage therapist is most likely aware of which muscles cause back pain, don’t hesitate to request this type of massage, especially if you suspect the pain is due to muscle dysfunction.