The number of men and women seeking massage treatment for back pain has skyrocketed in recent years, probably in part due to broader coverage by insurance companies who recognize the potential benefits of massage.

Many people suffer low back pain as a result of muscle tension and strain, making massage an ideal treatment. To get the most from your session, ask your therapist to focus on the two muscles responsible for the lion’s share of back pain:

Quadratus lumborum

This muscle connects our ribs to your pelvis and helps you maintain balance and lift objects. This is the muscle that often becomes strained or irritated when you don’t “lift with your knees.” The QL muscle can also become irritated when you stand for long periods at a time, especially when you stand without moving around – for instance, leaning over a workspace or a sink full of dishes, or when you spend long periods of time slumped in your chair at work. Runners often complain of pain in and around the QL muscle after running on hard pavement.

Gluteus medius

Located in your hip, the gluteus medius often becomes painful when the QL muscle becomes strained or irritated, often because it can become overused when you attempt to compensate for a sore QL muscle. Many patients report massage is most effective in this area when the muscle is worked while lying on the stomach.

Licensed massage therapists are trained to understand the muscles that are primarily involved in low back pain, but if you feel there’s one specific area that needs attention, don’t hesitate to speak up.

For many people experiencing low back pain, massage can provide a great deal of relief. But before seeing any massage therapist, see a spine doctor to make sure the pain isn’t attributable to a more serious underlying condition like a fracture or a compressed disc. In those cases, massage can wind up making your condition worse, not better.