Our spinal column is made up of a series of bones stacked onto each other. In between these bones are discs that cushion the bones. These discs are composed of a soft jelly-like interior core and a tough outer ring. Injury, strain or weakness can cause the outer ring to weaken or tear and the jelly-like portion to protrude through the outer ring resulting in a herniated disc.
The good news is that majority of herniated discs heal on their own. In the meantime, conservative non-surgical treatments can help reduce the pain, numbness, muscle spasms and other symptoms of disc herniation. Massage is one of the best non-surgical treatment options for a herniated disc.
The best thing about massage therapy is that it doesn’t come with the risk of addiction that pain medication present. And even if you find it hard to live without your dose of massage after the bulging disc corrects itself, it is a good thing as you will enjoy the physical and psychological benefits of massage and regular massage sessions can prevent a bulging disc reoccurrence.
How Massage Therapy Helps Heal a Bulging Disc Naturally
The body’s natural protective reaction to a herniated disc is to tighten the muscles surrounding the affected disc. This tightness increases the compressive load on the disc causing the disc to compress nerves, which causes numbness, pain, muscle spasms and other symptoms that accompany disc herniation.
Massaging the tissue surrounding the bulging disc helps relax the tight muscles and dissipate tension. Dissipating the tightness reduces the pressure on the disc and the reduced pressure eases nerve compression, which alleviates numbness, pain and muscle spasms, increases muscle flexibility and restores movement of the muscles and joints.
By increasing blood circulation, massage also ensures the muscles and tissues are well-fed and hydrated, which aids recovery and helps prevent further disc degeneration.
The psychological benefits of massage such as relaxation and release of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemicals that act as natural pain relievers also help you feel better.
All these benefits of massage help alleviate pain, prevent ongoing disc deformation and promote speedy healing of the disc.
Massage Techniques for Herniated Disc
No, herniated disc massage doesn’t involve returning the herniated disc back in position by applying pressure on the prolapsed portion. Massaging the protruding disc directly is actually contraindicated as it can cause pain and make the bulging disc even worse.
Safe and effective disc herniation massage involves gentle and targeted massage of the tissues surrounding the protruding disc. A wide range of techniques can be used ranging from Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, effleurage, petrissage, friction, mobilization, myofascial release, stretching, taping to deep tissue massage.
The massage techniques to use depend on the location of the disc that is damaged. By assessing the muscles, an experienced massage therapist will be able to locate the disc herniation and apply the right techniques to relieve pain and promote natural healing of the disc without causing pain or aggravating the herniated disc.
How Long for Herniated Disc to Heal with Massage?
It takes six to eight weeks for a herniated disc to heal without surgery. You will start feeling the healing effect of massage therapy on a herniated disc after your very first massage session. It takes a number of sessions, though, for a herniated disc to heal with massage and for the symptoms to disappear. You might need a session once a week for four to eight weeks. Regular massage treatments even after the prolapsed disc has healed can help prevent a reoccurrence.
Massage therapy is an effective non-surgical treatment for herniated disc. Although it is a low-risk option, it is still important to consult your physician before you begin massage therapy. Once you get the go-ahead, you can book your first session and start benefiting from the relaxation and healing effects of massage.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Slipped Disc – National Institute of Health (NIH)
Acupuncture and Massage for Lumbar Disc Herniation Study – Healthcmi.com
Live in New York and looking for a herniated disc massage therapy near you? Our experienced massage therapists can help you find relief. Contact us today for a free consultation and to book a session!