How to massage the back correctly?

Back pain can almost be recognized as a civilisation disease. If it hits one of our loved ones, then we often want to help and pamper them with a massage. However, we need to be mindful, because with the wrong massage techniques we can even aggravate tension. In the case of severe pain, one thing is very clear: you should leave the massage to the trained hands of a specialist. Without having received the according training, you should give massages only for the purpose of relaxation. In this article, we explain why it is so important to leave massage treatments to the trained expert when it comes to back problems. However, we give you a few tips on how to give a loved one a massage to relax.

How to treat back pain through massage

You should always go to a trained masseur to effectively relieve back pain through massage. Only they will know exactly how to treat different types of back pain. An anamnesis must be made. Things that are being discussed during the anamneses are, for example, whether the complaints are chronic or acute and what kind of pain it is. Is it radiant, stabbing, punctual, or pulling pain? Furthermore, the lifestyle of the patient must be understood, because that can reveal a lot about the problem. Based on all this, the therapist creates a treatment plan that includes the number and procedure of the treatments. Once all factors are known, the most effective techniques for the problem can be applied.

How to relieve tension in the back?

In case of tension or hardening in the back, it is important to understand that massage alone will not help in the long run. You have to become active yourself to strengthen the back muscles. This means that in addition to massages, you should do regular sports and stretching exercises. Yoga and Pilates are always a good idea.

If you work a lot in front of the computer, it is worthwhile to regularly loosen your shoulders and neck with circular movements. It is best to plan several short breaks (these do not have to be more than a few minutes) per day. On Youtube, you can find videos with the best exercises to loosen the shoulder and neck area. In addition, it is advisable to change the position several times a day, because a one-sided posture can trigger strong tension and lead to muscle shortening. A 5-minute walk per hour can further relieve the back and additionally helps concentration.

Furthermore, heat, for example through healing baths or a hot water bottle, can help.

Can you do something wrong when massaging?

That depends on the type of massage. For example, if you massage your partner or a family member with light pressure and it is more of a “stroking massage”, you can’t go wrong. However, if you are trying to relieve back pain with strong pressure, and you have not been trained in massage, you can indeed aggravate the pain.

To massage properly, it takes a lot and the right knowledge. This starts with the understanding of the skin. On the basis of the skin, you can recognize the condition of the tissue and as a trained masseur you understand how to deal with this tissue. Furthermore, one must not exert pressure on the spine, bones, or joints. You have to know exactly where the muscles are. As a layman, you should avoid massaging points of tension with your thumb or elbow with strong pressure. This can lead to further micro-injuries of the muscle fiber, which can trigger additional tension.

In short, if you want to pamper a loved one with a light back massage for relaxation, this is totally fine. However, if one suffers from pain, one should always put oneself in the hands of a specialist.

How do I massage the back correctly?

1. Understand the problem

Before the therapist can start the back massage, they have to properly understand the problem:
Is it chronic or acute pain? Is it lumbago, a neck bend, or an acute overload? Or is it possibly an inflammation, for example at the attachments of tendons and muscles?

In the case of chronic pain, one needs to understand what causes the discomfort. Is it triggered by a wrong posture or by a one-sided overload? Often the causes of pain can also be stress and psychological overload, triggered by work or private life.

Furthermore, the therapist looks at which parts of the body are affected exactly; which back muscles, joints, and tendons. Does the client suffer from a functional or mobilization impairment? A functional test and a side comparison are carried out, as well as a visual and a tactile test to assess the extent of the limitations.

Furthermore, the therapist will ask about any previous accidents or injuries.

All these factors are assessed by the therapist during the anamnesis at the beginning of the treatment. This gives them an accurate picture and an understanding of how to proceed during the treatment.

2. Using the right massage techniques
After the anamnesis, when the client lies on the massage table, the therapist gets an even deeper picture of the tension by feeling the problem. Now they can find out whether it is a superficial problem or a problem that is deep in the muscles. Additionally, trigger points can now be found.

It depends on the therapist and their training, which techniques are applied during the treatment. Widely used techniques include classic massage, trigger point therapy, fascia therapy, and deep tissue massage.

You want to give your loved ones a back massage? Here are a few tips:

1. Create a pleasant atmosphere.
A massage can relax our entire nervous system. An environment in which you feel comfortable enhances this relaxing effect. Make sure that the room temperature is pleasantly warm and the room is bathed in warm light. You can work with lamps or candles. In addition, fragrances from essential oils can make the person relax even more. You probably don’t have a massage table at home; Nevertheless, try to place the person as comfortably as possible so that they can let themselves fall. Almond oil is very suitable as a massage oil. Alternatively, you can use olive or coconut oil.

2. A few simple massage techniques explained
Put some massage oil in your hands and rub them together. For the person receiving the massage, it is obviously more pleasant if your hands are warm.

Start your back massage with slow strokes over the entire back. These stroking movements are called effleurage, which is considered one of the gentlest massage techniques. The stroking movements warm up the muscles. As mentioned above, avoid massaging directly on the spine, bones, or joints.

Another simple massage technique is Petrissage – kneading the skin. Knead the skin gently with your hands or fingers. This massifies the tissue and lures the muscles.

In addition, you can rub your fingertips or palms over the skin in circular motions. These relaxing frictions are called friction in technical language.

In the Tapotement, you gently pat off individual areas of the back. This can be very beneficial for tension.

Another technique of classical massage is vibration. You place your palms on the skin and move them quickly back and forth without creating pressure.

As an amateur, it is important not to press too hard anywhere, because this can trigger or aggravate tension. Limit yourself to light pressure and intuitively try to sense what is most beneficial for the other person.


If you want to pamper your loved ones with massage, make sure to only apply light pressure. Avoid pushing hard, as this can trigger or even aggravate tension. Try to intuitively feel what is most beneficial for your counterpart and create a relaxing atmosphere. However, if your loved ones suffer from severe pain, it is better to leave the massage to a trained therapist. They know how to proceed correctly.