We all think of a nice massage as helping us relax and relieve tension after a tough work week or a hard workout, but did you know it can also be an effective part of a pain management treatment plan? By working with a licensed and experienced massage therapist, many people are able to experience improvements in their pain levels and increased range of motion.
If you are exploring therapeutic massage as part of a broader pain management program, this informative guide can help you better understand the specific benefits for pain relief.
What Is Therapeutic Massage?
Massage is any deliberate technique for manipulating the soft tissue in the body, including skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Although any form of massage is intended to have therapeutic benefits, therapeutic massage is a discipline specifically designed to systematically identify sources of pain and discomfort and use specialized techniques to provide relief.
Licensed massage therapists receive formalized training and education in massage therapy and credentialing from an organization such as the American Massage Therapy Association. Research is still ongoing, but there is a growing body of evidence to support the effectiveness of massage therapy as a clinical practice for patients dealing with pain and other issues.
How Therapeutic Massage Can Relieve Pain
Doctors and researchers are still working to fully understand exactly how therapeutic massage relieves chronic pain, but the following benefits are believed to be important parts of the process.
1. Relaxes Tense Muscles and Soft Tissue
Many types of pain are associated with tension in the muscles and connective tissue. Even if the source of pain is not directly related to an injury, such as with neuropathic pain related to diabetes, feeling constant discomfort can cause muscles to involuntarily tense up. This in turn can cause pain to become subjectively worse.
By finding muscles and connective tissue that are most affected by pain and using techniques to relieve tension, a trained massage therapist can help promote significant relief by encouraging a relaxation response.
2. Relieves Mental Stress and Anxiety Around Pain
The emotional and mental health aspects of pain can be easy to overlook. But for many pain sufferers, the stress and anxiety that comes with the physical symptoms can be just as bad. In fact, there may even be a connection between mental health and the way some people subjectively experience pain.
In addition to the physical benefits of massage therapy, the relaxation response from a massage can also have a soothing effect on the mind. By relieving stress and anxiety, therapeutic massage can help people more effectively manage their pain.
3. Promotes Healthy Blood Flow to Fight Inflammation
Chronic pain and muscle tension can lead to painful bundles of tissue and the buildup of inflammatory toxins. If left untreated, these issues can worsen pain and reduce flexibility and mobility in the area.
Regular massage therapy can break up these bundles of tissue, known as trigger points, and promote nutrient-rich blood flow to the area that helps to break up toxins. This reduced inflammation can help reduce painful sensation while increasing function and range of motion.
Therapeutic Massage and Interventional Pain Management
If chronic pain is affecting your quality of life and you believe therapeutic massage may be an effective form of treatment, speak to your doctor or pain management specialist. Depending on your specific diagnosis, your doctor can help you decide if you are a good candidate for therapeutic massage. Different conditions may respond better to different approaches — someone with a lower back strain will need a different approach than someone dealing with fibromyalgia or nerve pain. Your doctor or specialist can also help you find a licensed and experienced massage therapist for pain relief.
For many people, therapeutic massage is an effective part of a holistic interventional pain management program consisting of treatments that can also include:
- Physical therapy
- Lifestyle changes, such as posture improvement and nutritional counseling
- Therapeutic injections
- Spinal cord stimulation
Take control of your chronic pain. No matter where you are on your treatment journey, Physician Partners of America can help. Our compassionate experts can help you create an individualized pain management program that fits your condition and treatment goals. Contact us today to learn more.