Massage and Pain Relief — Does it really work?

In terms of our work here at The Good Life Massage, we have found that massage therapy can have a significant impact on certain kinds of pain, especially when the source of that pain is strained muscles or repetitive stress on a certain area.

Sure, thank goodness for aspirin, but if you want to feel better in the long term, there’s no substitute for treating the underlying source of the pain. Massage has long been known as a good option for getting to some of the underlying causes of the persistent pain that can result from injuries, or just the everyday stresses of life.

But massage can also play a role in helping you get control of pain above and beyond the familiar aches, pains, and minor injuries.

The last thing you need is headaches
Headaches generally fall into one of two categories: tension headaches and migraines. Massage can help both, but the approach is somewhat different for each.

Tension, or muscle contraction headaches come from tightening of muscles in the neck, head, and face. This can come from stress or poor posture. Massage can loosen those tight muscles and release the tension that builds up because of poor posture. If posture correction is your goal, keep in mind that it will take time, both in practicing the correct posture, and in using massage therapy to help retrain your muscles to find a new, more natural position.

Migraine, or vascular headaches come from a slight build-up of pressure in the head, which can somewhat restrict oxygen-rich blood flow. By soothing and relaxing the muscles of the face, head, and scalp, massage can help reduce this kind of pain

A substitute for heavy pain killers?
As a piece of the overall picture in health care, the subject of pain and how to help sufferers get control of it has been through a lot of ups and downs in the past several years. With the introduction of stronger opiate pain killers, things seemed to be looking up for patients. Now, practical experience and studies have shown these wonder drugs to be highly addicting, and have triggered a plague of addiction across the country.

As a result, doctors have gotten much more strict and careful about prescribing opioid pain killers like oxycontone. Protocols at hospitals and clinics have tightened up to keep these drugs in the right hands, but no system is perfect. It’s probably true that many have been protected from addiction because of these measures. Unfortunately, as a result, many patients are finding it difficult get the pain relief they legitimately need.

The system isn’t likely to budge on this any time soon since the widespread addiction is only getting worse. So how can patients get the pain relief that they need?

Recent studies show that non-traditional treatments, such as massage therapy, can provide significant and noticeable relief, either in conjunction with medication, or as an alternative.

One study conducted in a hospital setting showed a decrease in the average pain levels in patients by 28.5%–a significant improvement. This study also showed that patients showed improved sleep and a greater ability to cope with physical and psychological challenges as a result of receiving massage.

Right hands, right time, right place
And not just any massage will do. A literature review of several studies found that empathy, an on-going connection with the massage therapist, and even the setting and time of day were all significant factors in the massage’s effectiveness. The takeaway: the best results come from regular care from someone you trust rather than a cheap one-and-done experience.

At The Good Life Massage, we do our best to create a relaxing, healing environment for all our clients. Our therapists want to build a relationship with every client. Whenever we can do that, we find that we’re able to provide customized care with the best possible results. Learn more about our staff of massage therapists on our staff page.

Personal experience
We know of what we speak. Our own Amy Gunn, LMP suffered terrible abdominal pain for years before finally researching a massage solution to the problem. Her research resulted in a new treatment regime we offer to clients called visceral manipulation that has helped her and others like her. Read her story.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

What non-medication methods have you used to get pain under control? What has worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Do you struggle with pain regularly? Have you considered regular massage treatment as a part of your arsenal in fighting it?

You can book with us online or by phone:

425-243-7705

Tom Gunn is a freelance writer and social media marketing specialist. He is also the Marketing Director for The Good Life Massage. You can see more of his work, or even hire him at www.TGunnWriter.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @elmanoroboto.

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7 Mendacious Massage Misconceptions

Massage is becoming more popular every day. The public is finally getting educated on what regular massage can do to benefit your mental and physical health.

Having said that, there are a surprising number of myths and misconceptions about massage that we feel the need to clear up here and now.

This came up as a subject recently in our post about pre-natal massage. In my interview with Christie Ellis, formerly of GLM, the following misconception about prenatal massage came up:

“Prenatal massage can induce labor”
I’ll let Christie take this first one:

“That is a myth! Massage does not cause labor. Acupressure can precipitate labor, and that would be on the level of applying director pressure on a very specific spot for two or three minutes every fifteen minutes over the span of about forty-eight hours.

So there’s no way to come in for a prenatal massage and come out a mother?
“(laughs) No! And to be clear, acupuncture and acupressure are very different than massage. We’re using much broader strokes with massage and there’s absolutely no concern that a nice foot massage could put a woman into labor.

“Another myth I would point out is that abdominal massage can cause miscarriage. That’s out there, too, especially for people who are concerned about the first trimester.

“I do think it’s important to have someone that’s trained for any sort of abdominal work, but massage in general is very safe for expecting mothers.”

But there are plenty of other misconceptions about massage out there. This should put a dent in a few of the more common ones:

“Sure, you feel great right after a massage, but the effects are only temporary”
This idea probably comes from those who really need regular massage, but only tried it once, and went back to the status quo after a day or two. If you suffer from chronic pain or posture issues, regular massage can be particularly beneficial in “retraining” your muscles and your body to be well and whole.

Massage Results take time

You wouldn’t expect to reach all your fitness goals with just one workout, right? Massage is the same way: long-term improvements in your physical health almost never come in the form of a magic bullet. It just takes time and persistence.

If cost seems to be a barrier to getting the treatment you need, you might not have all the facts.

“Does it hurt? It’s supposed to. Just let it happen.”
If you feel pain or discomfort during your massage, say something! While it’s true that some discomfort can be expected in treatment massage, you need to keep talking to your practitioner about your comfort and the treatment they’re doing. Even if a particular stroke or method is supposed to be therapeutic, your therapist can and should honor your requests. The kind of care you receive is entirely in your hands, and should be wholly directed by you.

What’s more, too much pain can actually be counterproductive. If you’re sincerely in pain, you’ll unconsciously tense up other muscle groups, creating the exact opposite of the desired effect for your massage.

“Massage releases toxins and cleanses your system”
Not really. It depends on what you mean by “toxins”. What massage does do is help stimulate circulation throughout your body. This can be helpful if you’re injured. Increased blood flow can be very beneficial in that case. That circulation can include run-of-the-mill cell waste, but there’s no medical magic in stimulating processes that your body routinely caries out anyway. You can get the same effect from vigorous exercise.

“If you don’t walk away feeling like a million bucks, you got a bad massage”
It’s true that, for most cases, people walk away from their massage feeling relaxed, limber, even a little euphoric. But while this is commonly the case, a good massage can sometimes make you feel, well, lousy–at least immediately afterward.

Are you fighting a bug? If you’re getting sick, a massage can sometimes accelerate how quickly you feel the symptoms. You may walk in feeling fairly well, oblivious to the fact that you’re about to get sick, and then get off the table feeling a little weak and achy. If that turns into a bout with a cold or the flu, we feel your pain. But you can’t blame the massage therapist or the job they did for making it happen.

Another scenario is when deep tissue treatment is called for and requested. When your practitioner needs to go deep below the surface tissue to release trigger points and send circulation to distressed areas, this may cause some discomfort both during and just after the treatment.

This can be the case for specialty treatments we offer, including deep transverse friction and myoskeletal alignment. People sometimes report feeling sore after these kinds of heavy treatment-style massages. That does not mean your practitioner did a bad job. In fact, that can be a sign that more regular treatment is called for. It shouldn’t hurt every time, and there should be significant improvement after a good night’s sleep.

“If you have cancer, massage will spread the cancer cells through your body”
This is basically impossible. Massage moves lymph, but cancer doesn’t spread through the lymphatic system. Metastization (the spread of cancer) is due to genetic mutation and a number of factors that have nothing at all to do with the functioning of the lymphatic system.

Having said that, if you’re a cancer patient, it’s wise to consult with your oncologist before scheduling a massage. Relaxation massage at any stage of cancer can actually be immensely beneficial, reducing depression and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that it reduces nausea and pain.

Are there any others you’ve heard that we didn’t cover here? Do you have any questions about massage and what it can do for you?

Let us know in the comments below.

You can also contact us by phone at 425-243-7705

or by email at support@goodliferenton.com

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at tgunnwriter.com

Amy Gunn, LMP is a co-founder of The Good Life Massage and has been a licensed massage practitioner since 1999.