Six Effective Tips for Combatting Back Pain

Boston Bodyworks founder Drew Freedman tells us how to work out those knots.

Now that virtually everyone in the working world spends eight or more hours a day leaned over a computer in an ogre-like hunch, feeling tense is just part of the routine.

But before you spend another work week agonizing over those stubborn knots in your neck and back, consider going on the offensive. Drew Freedman, owner and founder of massage therapy group Boston Bodyworks, gave us six effective tips to reduce back pain.

1. Exercise daily. Yes, just another reason to hit the gym. Freedman says the more you work dynamic movement and stretching into your regimen, the more you can reduce back pain down the line. “Just like [how] brushing teeth daily reduces the risk of dental issues,” Freedman says.

2. Try out “wall angles.” Lean against a wall with your head, glutes, and upper back making contact, then bring your arms to your sides at a shoulder-height 90-degree angle. Slowly, lift them into a V shape and back down, maintaining wall contact the entire time. “This is an excellent upper back retraining exercise to maintain mobility and flexibility in the chest, shoulders, lats, and upper back muscles—[muscles] that are under constant duress from our daily activities,” Freedman says.

3. Do “the brettzel.” This total mobility stretch involves laying on the ground in a running-man twist, with one knee forward and the other knee back. (You might need a visual aid.) Freedman says he recommends the brettzel to every single client. “It is one of the best complete body stretches that you can do for yourself,” he says.

4. Pack on pressure—then let it be. “Apply direct, sustained pressure to the knot,” says Freedman. He suggests lying on top of a tennis ball (or a lacrosse ball, if you’re careful) at your tender point, taking a deep breath, and holding the position until the pressure dissipates. “The key is not to press too fast or too hard,” he says. “You can over-treat these areas and create an ongoing, painful knot. Allow the tissue to recover for at least 24 hours prior to reengaging.”

5. Embrace the massage… Whether you’re getting a clinical treatment or a quick back rub from a loved one, Freedman says a regular massage can work wonders. “Massage for relaxation is excellent at reducing hormone levels that are harmful to our overall health, like cortisol and adrenaline,” he says, adding that this helps boost the immune system, increase libido, and decrease blood pressure and sugar. “Clinical massage is aimed at reducing fight or flight response and focuses on areas that are commonly being overused,” he says.

6….but go easy on the recipient. Don’t let your masseuse get away with a no pain, no gain style. “Contrary to popular opinion, a massage does not need to hurt in order to be effective,” says Freedman, who suggests matching the pressure of your hands with the level of tension in the back. “There are times [when] it can be uncomfortable, but it should always be a ‘good hurt.'”