Why Massage for Pain Relief Is So Effective
Ahhh … that wonderful feeling you have after a massage. You know it makes you feel good but does massage therapy really help pain and is it beneficial for your body? The short answer is yes. Massage therapy is a great part of the treatment protocol for pain relief and management. And, there’s science behind it and research to back it up. One question I am often asked is “How can massage therapy assist in my recovery from or the management of my pain?” Here’s what you need to know about massage for pain relief:
The well known benefits of massage therapy include:
- mental and physical relaxation
- increased circulation and lymphatic flow
- reduction in muscles spasm
- increased flexibility and even lessening of scar tissue and adhesions in the soft tissue
But how exactly does massage therapy relieve pain?
In helping with circulation to an area, massage therapy can help the body to move out inflammation. Inflammation has powerful compounds within it that stimulate our pain fibers. Massage helps to get the blood flow going to push out that inflammation. Additionally, chronically spasmed muscles build up the pain producing chemical, lactic acid. By reducing muscle spasm and again, improving circulation, the body can better metabolize out the lactic acid as well as produce less of it in the more relaxed muscle.
Another way that massage therapy helps pain is that it frees up the muscle fibers to move more normally within its casing or fascia. Adhesions within muscles and between muscles and fascia can cause abnormal muscle tone, tension and altered biomechanics which produce pain.
Releases “feel good” hormones
Through the very therapeutic power of touch, massage therapy causes the release of the hormones oxytocin and serotonin. Studies show that a rise in oxytocin and/or serotonin levels can relieve pain. Oxytocin also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Often people in chronic pain have difficulty achieving a deep, restorative sleep. Since massage therapy is helpful in improving sleep, it can help reduce pain simply by helping those suffering to experience a more healing sleep.
What does the research show about massage and pain relief?
There have been several studies showing the effectiveness of massage for pain relief:
- A study of more than 1,200 patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that massage reduces symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, and pain by about 50 percent.
- A pilot study in 2000, conducted by Gregory P. Fontana, MD at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, found that massage reduces pain and muscle spasms in patients who have multiple incisions. When surveyed, 95 percent of patients felt that massage therapy was a crucial part of their hospital experience, while need for medications dropped on days they received a massage.
- In a summary of research the American Massage Therapy Association reported that massage relieved a variety of pain including metastatic bone pain, headache, postoperative pain, and back and leg pain in pregnant women. Massage decreased pain, distress, tension, and anxiety in children and adolescents with chronic pain. It reduced pain and improved the quality of life for adult cancer patients. Additionally, massage improved subjective perception of and function for those with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and had a positive effect on lower back pain.
- Time magazine published an interesting article about how massage may work as well as drugs like aspirin or Advil in easing pain from intense exercise.
Between the growing body of evidence based research and the positive physiological changes that occur with massage therapy, we can see that massage therapy is a great addition to any treatment protocol for pain. Of course anyone experiencing pain should always first check with his or her medical doctor or chiropractor to first be sure that their condition is appropriate for massage therapy.
Why Life Care Chiropractic and Wellness
All of our massage therapists are licensed by the Maryland Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners. Our massage therapists can do any type of massage from a light relaxing Swedish massage to deep tissue depending on the needs of the patient. We also offer myofascial release which is a technique focused on removing adhesions between the muscle and the fascia to relieve pain and increase flexibility. Go ahead and schedule an appointment today – massage for pain relief really works.