I’m a Massage Therapist, and This Is the One at-Home Move That Relieves a Sore Back Stat

Photo: Westend61
Of all the treat yourself-style treatments out there, getting a massage is one that is always worth justifying. Whether you're working out as if you're training for the Olympics or just sitting at a desk all day, signing your body up for a little extra love is one of the kinder things you can do for your muscles... especially if you're like me and regularly deal with back soreness (thanks a lot, weak core). But while I am very pro-massage, I am also very pro-"not regularly spending $100+ on something I can do myself at home." And so, I asked a massage therapist what I could do for my back pain in-between pro treatments. Her tip? Grab a physio ball.

"As a supplement to massage therapy, lying over a large physio ball for soreness is a good temporary at-home fix," says Karen Kochanski, a licensed massage therapist with Zeel (physio balls are the large, bouncy stability balls you typically see in a gym). Drape yourself over the ball so that it's directly under the area of your back that needs relief. Extend your arms and knees toward the floor, but make sure they don't touch so that "gravity can work its magic," says Kochanski. Hang out for 10 to 15 minutes (... maybe pop in a podcast?), and you'll get a nice, natural stretch and a slow release of the muscle.

If you don't have a physio ball, reaching for your trusty foam roller is another option—lie on top of it lengthwise for a nice chest-opening stretch similar to what you'd get on the ball. One very important caveat, though, is that you should never, ever use a foam roller to actually roll out your back—particularly your lower back. “[Foam rolling the lower back] can be potentially dangerous, as it often forces the spine into more extension than it can handle,” Danielle Weis, PT, previously told Well+Good. “Too much extension in these cases decreases the space of the spinal and foraminal canals and can lead to spinal cord and nerve impingement, and a multitude of issues can arise like shooting pain or weakness.” So consider this an excuse to lie on top of the roller and do nothing besides c-h-i-l-l.

To turn your at-home massage session into a full-on luxury spa treatment, Kochanski suggests finishing it off with a warm Epsom salt bath to "draw out excess lactic acid and toxins that may be causing inflammation." If things are really bothering you, though, book an appointment with an actual masseuse. A physio ball and an Epsom salt bath are great, but it's hard to pass up a pro-approved excuse for pampering. Every once in a while, at least.

Some other nice things you can do for your back? Decompress with these spine-lengthening moves, or give it a stretch by literally hanging out.  

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