Fists down the erectors


by David Lauterstein

There are a vast number of potentially effective techniques for lower back pain. In my experience, however, there are three which are most dependably useful and, if done well, have a wonderful impact. Like most effective techniques in troubled areas, if not done well, they may exacerbate the pain! Let’s practice structural integration, not disintegration!!

I’ll go over one of these every few days this week with some important tips.

A. Deep effleurage down the erector spinae – especially the longissimus – from the top of the ribcage down to the bottom of the sacrum. I usually call this ‘fists down the erectors”. (see the illustration from my book I’ve attached).

Things to avoid:

  • Not going down to at least the level of S4. Remember, the thoracolumbar fascia wraps around the coccyx (and continues further with other names of course) so if you don’t address nearly its full length the person is left with an incomplete experience.
  • The ideal experience of the spine is that it be felt as long, strong, yet somewhat fluid, extending from the occiput to the bottom of the sacrum.
  • Pressing too hard. If the client isn’t able to breathe freely into their back while you work, lighten up. The point is to lengthen the fascia, not push it anteriorly! So your main vector, once you feel you have some traction with the fascia, is inferior.
  • Explore the territory with some lightness, then you’ll have a much better idea of where and when to slow down and/or to add more pressure.
  • Starting too slowly. This can set a ponderous tone for the session. Usually you’ll want to repeat this stroke once or twice at a “moderato” tempo initially and also use it as an integrating stroke toward the end of your back work to create an even more centered feeling.

When done well, fists down the erectors will restore the sense of length throughout the spine; will smooth out tensions as it goes; and will amplify the feeling of centeredness.

What are your favorite techniques/approaches for addressing lower back tension?

Come to this first installment of the new Deep Massage Certification, this January 24-26!