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Massage/back pain after massage


QUESTION: is it possible to agravate a herniated disc after getting off a massage table?

ANSWER: Hi Terry,

Thank you for your question.

When you are laying on a massage table you are probably in a different position than usual.  Massage tables, although padded, tend to be pretty firm; they don't give as a mattress does.  So, just the act of laying on your back or stomach on the table could aggravate your muscles.

By the way, herniated disks most often happen because muscles that are tighter on one side (front, back, side) than the other, for one reason or another.  So, when the muscles that are causing the herniation are relaxed, the disk can often move back to where it's supposed to be.  This is especially true if it's a fairly recent herniation.

Your question sounds as though you are asking whether you could have aggravated your herniated disk when you got off the table.  Sure, that could happen.  Lots of people strain to get up rather than roll onto their side and push up with their arms while their legs are dropping off the side.

And after a massage, some of your muscles are relaxed.  Some may still be "too tight."  When that happens, it makes it easier to move "wrong" and cause muscle strain.  It may be more likely that you are feeling a muscle strain.

If you are asking whether the massage could aggravate your back pain, the answer is it's possible.  If the massage practitioner works deeply only one one side of your body (the back) and ignores the muscles on the front of your body which also attach to your spine, that can cause muscle imbalance, too.

I hope this answers your question, Terry.  If not, please write again.

Thank you,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I had a shoulder massage done at my work. While trying to get up I felt a jolt of pain in my lower back. I didn't roll to my side and and push myself up with my hand. I later had to go to the hospital for what the doctor said scatica. I had to go back to the hospital again and after the MRI I had a herniated disc.  Now I did not have the typical symptoms of a herniated disc prior to the massage.  Could straining to get off the table cause the herniated disc to worsen all of a sudden?

Hi Terry,

Sometimes the movement that causes a herniated disk is as simple as twisting and picking something up at the same time.  Yes, the way that you moved getting off the table could have cause a muscle to spasm or to pull on a disk.  The answer to your question is yes.

Sciatica means there is pressure somewhere along the path of the sciatic nerve.  It's a large nerve (as thick as your finger) and runs from your lower back on both sides, through your buttocks, down into your legs.  If the muscle next to your waist which is called the Quadratus Lumborum went into a spasm or contraction when you were getting off the table, that could do it!

Muscles move bones and disks.  If you can get to a massage therapist who knows how to release or relax the QL there is a very good chance that will help...a LOT!  He or she will press their fingers deep into the muscle to help it relax.The QL can pull on spine bones and disks and actually can push the disk into the nerve on the side opposite the spasm.

Sometimes the reason for the pain is on the side where it is felt.  But often, the cause of the pain is on the opposite side of the body.

I hope this helps and that you feel better quickly!  Other natural therapies would include cold packs to help reduce the swelling around the muscle (inflammation) and the discomfort.



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Kathryn Merrow


I can respond to questions about migraines and headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, hand-wrist-arm pain, upper back pain, and other assorted and miscellaneous pain symptoms. I can also respond to general questions about massage and how to select a massage therapist.


I have been a massage therapist since 1992 specializing primarily in pain relief techniques. I utilize the St. John Method of Neuromuscular Massage Therapy (NMT) and other bodywork modalities. I'm The Pain Relief Coach online.

Professional Member of American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCTMB)


My initial training in massage was at Health Enrichment Center in Lapeer, Michigan. I have had advanced training or workshops with Kurashova Institute for Studies in Physical Medicine, St. John Neuromuscular Institute of Pain Relief, Center for Self-Healing and many others. I now share my education and experience as a Massage Instructor and Pain Relief Coach.

Awards and Honors
The highest honor I receive is when someone tells me that they finally understand why they had pain, that they took action and that their pain is either less or is totally gone.

Past/Present Clients
I have done well over 20,000 therapeutic massage sessions, primarily with clients with various types of pain or painful syndromes.

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