Back massager and back stretcher: which one is better and how to use them?

There are a plethora of ways to relieve back problems, from pharmaceutical assistance to surgery. Oftentimes, however, there is a much simpler solution. A good deal of back pain is caused by stress and tension. When we are overly stressed, the hormone cortisol is released at high levels and courses throughout our body, sending all our systems into the fight-or-flight reaction. That means that the muscles are tensing dramatically in order to move quickly and defend the beloved organ it surrounds.

Someone who is under constant, long-term stressful conditions usually finds themselves trying to rub the knots and the tightness from their neck, shoulders, and back. Add to the fact that over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain due to overuse, poor posture, little exercise, degeneration, and a variety of other conditions, and stress becomes a recipe for disaster in making the pain worse.

While there are some medical limitations to treating back pain depending on what has caused it and patient history, there are some simple ways to help loosen the tensed muscles and gently realign the spinal column.

Back Stretchers

A back stretcher is a good place to start for realignment. Many of the stretchers are small and focused mostly on this lower back region. They’re designed to help improve posture and realign those vertebrae (disks), which then helps to straighten out the other disks above and below. This kind of back pain generally occurs most often when we sit too long or lift too many heavy objects. It’s then exacerbated by the tension that comes from being in pain, and then the stress levels of everyday life.

There are several types of back stretchers. There are some that are compact and some that are full-body contraptions. The small ones can be laid out on the floor, usually with an adjustable arch that you then lay over with the peak of the arch at the center of the back and knees bent with feet flat on the floor. This is usually done for 5 to 20 minutes at a time, or as needed. Many people find this helps temporarily but they will often have to do this several times a day.

The active stretching devices are more for those who are looking to stretch a larger region of their back. This is a full body machine that has self-administered traction and braces to help align the spine and stretch the muscles surrounding the column. These are great for those who are having to get spinal adjustments on a regular basis, and people with scoliosis pain report immediate relief.

The inversion tables have been seen on infomercials and marketing for many years now. Feet are strapped at the ankles with the back straight against the stretcher. Then, you are flipped upside down so that gravity can work to decompress the spine. This is one of the most effective back stretchers on the market and can be helpful for a great variety of conditions. The inversion table is more recommended for those with severe, chronic back problems, but can be used by anyone for total spinal realignment.

Back Massagers

Let’s face it, not everyone has the time or the budget to visit a masseuse regularly. Life is too busy and chaotic for that. Fortunately, however, there are a great variety of back massagers on the market that can help relieve pain, tension, and discomfort in all regions of the spine. We won’t pretend to be able to cover all the different types of massagers in this one article, but there are a few modulations and types that will help you make a choice.
1. Friction is good for improving blood and fluid flow to the area. It’s a rubbing or pressure type of massage.
2. Petrissage is good for deep tissues and is a squeezing sensation. 3. Effleurage is used before the deep tissue massage to warm them up for the squeezing. It’s a gentle gliding or stroking massage.
4. Vibration is one that can be found in a variety of different brands of massagers. It relaxes muscles, stimulates organs, and alleviates pain.
5. Tapotement is a bit more “electrified” in that it’s used to wake up the nervous system and release the lymphatic fluid that may be built up in the back. It’s done by striking, percussion, or beating.

The types of massagers range in size, price, modulation, and utility, so it’s important to determine first where the pain is located and what kind of massage is needed. The four basic types of massagers include:
1. Chair massager which massages different parts of the back and may also have vibration and heat settings to help with inflammation and pain relief. This can be an insert that goes onto a regular chair or it can be a chair itself.
2. Wand massager is easy to use, small and portable. It’s electric with an adjustable head and usually with several vibration speeds.
3. Belt massager is also a portable device that is more focused on the lumbar and sacral spine and triggers the muscles in these regions. This wouldn’t be the option for neck and upper back pain.
4. Trigger point massager is easy to use and portable, without any need for electricity. It has knobs on it that are placed in such a way that it stimulates the muscles and helps them loosen. It’s good for all regions of the back.

This is in no way and exhaustive list, but should help you get started in searching for the right device that fits your needs and lifestyle.

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