Massage and Pain

Everyone experiences significant pain at some time in their lives—whether from an injury, illness, or an unknown cause. Pain is a warning signal, an alarm that goes off when your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong and out of balance.

No one should have to live with pain, but which treatment is right for you?

Often times, people suffering from pain take medication to dull the pain. Taking medication is understandable when pain is constant and unbearable. It may be helpful to dull the symptoms for a short period of time, but it will not get at the root of the problem and correct it. It is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm. Unless the cause of the pain is treated, your body will keep sounding the alarm and reminding you that something is wrong.  Because medication masks the pain symptoms, eventually the pain may get worse or become chronic. It is also possible for the medications to cause unwanted side effects and further compromise your health.

Surgery may also be another option. At times, this approach may make sense, but it could be both expensive and risky, and there is no guarantee that it will be effective.

People experience pain differently. Some people have a high tolerance for pain while others are very sensitive to pain. There are two types of pain signals that the brain receives including; fast pain and slow or continuous pain.

Massage therapy typically addresses pain originating from muscle tension and stiffness in the joints due to soft tissue restrictions. Massage therapy is a drug-free natural approach to dealing with this type of pain.

Did you know that massage overrides the pain signal!

According to the “Gate Control Theory,” there are nerve gates in the spinal cord that open and close to allow signals to travel to the brain. There are two types of pain signal nerve fibers 1) First pain or Fast pain fibers send signals that travel at approximately 40 mph, and 2) Slow pain or continuous pain signals that travel at approximately 3 mph.

The reason massage can override pain signals is because touch and pressure activate other sensory fibers that send signals to the brain even faster than the “Fast pain” nerve fibers. When the “gate” opens to allow touch and pressure sensation through, the pain signal is overridden.

In addition to sensory input, massage creates a relaxation response in the brain releasing endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.

What are the benefits of massage?

The benefits of treating pain using massage therapy have been cited in several studies over the last couple of decades. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Long-lasting relief for patients suffering from chronic low back pain
  • Relief from the perception of pain pain intensity and anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients
  • Demonstrated better results when compared to a cold pack treatment for treating post-traumatic headaches.
  • Reduction in chronic tension headaches.
  • Reduction in pain and muscle spasms in patients
  • When surveyed, the need for medication went down on the days that these patients received massage therapy.
  • Enhances body awareness regarding the pain they were experiencing.
  • Increased sense of connection with treatment due to the power of the human touch.

What types of massage are beneficial for managing pain?

Because the source of pain can vary widely, there are many types of massage that will help individuals manage pain symptoms. They include:

  • Swedish relaxation massage helps to relieve pain related to stress and tension.
  • Neuromuscular therapy addresses specific muscle pain.
  • Reflexology targets the specific body system involved in the pain.
  • Lymphatic drainage treats pain associated with swelling and edema.

If you or someone you love is suffering from pain, find a massage therapist who can tailor a therapeutic massage to meet your specific needs. You don’t have to live in constant pain. Let massage touch your life and help you to ease the pain.


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