Let’s DISCuss (haha!) how Ashiatsu may help with back pain from different stages of bulging discs

Ashiatsu-for-chronic-low-back-pain-and-bulging-discsI’ve taught massage therapists from all over the world how to massage people in chronic pain since 2008. Our clients, and their word-of-mouth referrals, have seen their chronic back pain reduced as a result of their sessions here at Heeling Sole. The cause of their lower back pain is usually a bulging, herniated or degenerated vertebral disc.  Heeling Sole’s barefoot massages have jump-started their bodies natural healing capabilities! If you have back pain from disc issues, lets see if Ashiatsu is right for you!

What exactly is the difference between a herniated, bulging, torn, ruptured, slipped discs or a pinched nerve? Most of the time the laymen’s terms are mixed up, confused and interchanged, and inconsistently referenced. These things can even be misdiagnosed. I’m not a doctor, just a well educated muscle squasher. Here’s what I know:

Listed below are the 4 stages of disc degeneration, and if Ashiatsu is “do-able”


Stages of Disc Degeneration for clarity, with some common lay-terms associated with each stage:

  1. Protrusion-“degenerated”:  Yep! We can massage this!
  2. Prolapsed- ”Bulging” “Pinched Nerve”:  Still good to massage, as long as you are not in acute, debilitating pain.
  3. Extrusion- ”Herniated” “torn”:  We need to work cautiously and closely with your instant-replay feedback while massaging you. But yes, it can be done!
  4. Sequestered- “Slipped” “Ruptured”: Nope. Not unless you’ve had surgery, followed up with PT, and have had 6-9 months healing time since the procedure.

Ask your doctor if spinal traction can help with your back pain. Have that Doc tell you the medical term and actual stage that your discs are in. We can show you how our traction, stretches, and deep myofascial release can help you out of pain. (As long as it’s not Stage 4, “sequestered”, “slipped”, “ruptured”, or “bone on bone” with extreme acute pain, then we can do Ashiatsu on you.)

We commonly massage new clients who are caught in the early stages listed above. Pain associated with stage 1 and 2 can be cyclical, and have been noted to fade with rest, exercise, physical therapy, yoga, mobility, chiropractic and massage treatments in some cases within 6-9 months.  Clinical research has concluded massage has a positive effect on chronic low-back pain. Research continues to support the health benefits of massage therapy for pain management.

How can Ashiatsu Help?

During an Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage, we are able to work on both sides of the spine, left and right, in a unique way that only feet can do. Our body weight and specific directions of pressure will traction the vertebrae – similar to a traction table or device. We do this in a rhythmical, repetitive, pulsing, intuitive pattern. We can create microscopic, intricate articulations that may not be a part of your daily movement vocabulary. In some really immobilized regions of your spine, these movements may not even possible on your own! These mobilizations of traction combined with rotation, flexion and extension will help to suction the offcentered gooey innards of your discs back to a neutral position, which can help to relieve inflammation and irritation from the nerve.

Our massages cannot “fix” you on their own: that’s why we still want you to see a Physical Therapist, Chiropractor, and even an amazing  Yoga Therapist. You’ll want to begin conditioning and strengthening with them, as our massages retrain your tissue to release the guarded contraction. This combined effort  can help a person towards freedom from pain.  Some people need a lifestyle change and need to get up out of that seated position more often. Some people need a lot of muscle work to wake up the anatomy that supports your spine effectively.  The more the “offending action” (which can be as simple as your posture) continues to contribute to the situation, then the more time and effort it may take to reduce the discomfort.

When should you consider Ashiatsu for chronic low back pain?

Keep in mind we do these movements for disc issues in the lumbar spine, or lower back. If your bulging disc is in your neck – that’s a different story. (We aren’t going to stand on your neck of course!) Either way, if you are in acute, debilitating “OMG I CAN’T MOVE” type of pain right now, then this is too aggressive for you. Please don’t take muscle relaxants or painkillers 12 hours prior to your appointment with us. If you are experiencing a loss of sensation in an area, we need to know where, so that our pressure doesn’t smash the bejeezus out of it! (We can still massage it, just not at full force.) In every case, your instant-replay style feedback is key to creating a customized massage session that will help you move out of pain, not perpetuate it. We don’t believe in “No pain no gain.”  We CAN indulge your “Hurt so good” cravings, however.  

If you’re experiencing pain from a disc issue, talk to your Chiropractor, Physical or Occupational Therapist and REALLY let them educate you on what’s going on. Pick their brain, ask them for visuals. Ask them for the medical terminology of your diagnosis and write that down! This is your body, so get to know what’s really going on, not just in layman’s terms. The more you know about yourself, the more you can make educated decisions with your medical team (that hopefully includes us!) on how to approach your pain management.

Ready to see if Ashiatsu can help YOUR bulging discs? Schedule a session with one of our highly trained, expert barefoot massage therapists today.