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Why Massage Therapy Should Come First in Treatment of Pain

Why Massage Therapy Should Come First in Treatment of Pain

by Dylan Jawahir, LAc, LMT, Contributor to Massage & Bodywork on

Massage Therapy has been around for thousands of years. Every culture in the world has some form of massage, or bodywork, as a healing therapy. Today, massage therapy has become somewhat of a lost therapeutic art as new technology advances medicine with laboratory-created chemical compounds and the latest electronic diagnostic and treatment devices. Though wonderful, these modernizations have also removed the innate healing effects of human-to-human contact. The simple act of touch is so powerfully soothing, that it can reduce heart rate, release endorphins, and regulate breathing. There is no replacement for the healing power of touch.

One should think of massage therapy as natural medicine. It falls into the category of alternative medicine, but loses the spotlight to other more intriguing therapies, such as acupuncture and yoga. Although it’s not as glamorous, massage should be considered as the very first therapy when it comes to treating pain in the body. Here’s why.

The human body contains over 650 muscles. In the average person, muscle makes up about 40% of body weight. At any one point in time, specific muscles in the body are working to keep the body functioning properly. Therefore, muscles are continuously active in sustaining life. For this reason alone, one should make sure that their muscles are in the best shape possible. Massage addresses the muscular tissue and can help muscles regain suppleness and contract efficiently.

Skeletal muscles help lymphatic fluid flow from the tissues back to the heart. When muscles contract and relax, lymph is pushed throughout the lymphatic vessels. The muscular pumping action encourages systemic movement of lymph. The fluid circulation allows for proper immune system function, cellular waste removal, dead blood cell removal, and excess fluid removal for every area in the body. Consider that the effect of tight, constricted muscles will not only impede lymphatic drainage, but residual effects would be edema, poor trauma healing, and poor immune system function.

Muscles are innervated by nerves and supported by blood vessels.   Clearly, an unimpeded nerve conduction pathway will allow muscles to contract completely.  But, a blocked or pinched nerve may cause a muscle to feel weak, fatigued, or possibly painful.  Blood supplies fresh oxygen to muscles and removes lactic acid along with other byproducts of muscular contraction.  Without good blood flow, there will be lack of strength or cramping. Sometimes tight, knotted muscles can block or impede the flow of nerve signals and blood.  This blockage starves muscles and causes pain. Also, some muscles can pinch off the blood or nerve supply to other muscles, thereby creating a rippling effect downstream from a problem area.

A trip to the chiropractor often realigns the skeletal structure when a subluxation or dislocation occurs in a joint.  The bones may be getting adjusted, but the real offenders could be the attached muscles.  Strain and imbalance in muscle structures can disturb correct joint articulation.  When muscular forces have gone too far, the joints and bones will shift out of place.  The muscles that tighten and injure the joint may also be painful to touch.  They may reflexively trigger other nearby muscles to tighten up and protect the newly traumatized area.  Frequent subluxations in a particular joint could mean there is a bigger issue of muscular tightness and imbalance underlying.

Massage should be used for regular body maintenance. At the very least, a relatively non-active person should receive a massage once a month. This regular bodywork is a good way to keep up muscle function and stave off injury.  For more active people, muscles should be massaged more frequently. It is easily forgotten that the body is a machine that needs care for optimal performance. Consider that people will put more money into car maintenance than into body maintenance. It should be planned part of the personal financial budget, not a luxury when discretionary income is available. To run some numbers, take the average cost of a massage at $75. One massage a month amounts to a yearly expense of $900. That’s about $2.50 a day, less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee. There are many benefits, some of which include minimizing pain relieving medications, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic aches and pain, and improving overall health. The benefits of massage greatly outweigh its costs, as good health and longevity is invaluable.

Read more: Alternative Therapies, General Health, Health, Men's Health, Mental Wellness, Natural Remedies, Women's Health, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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11:20PM PST on Dec 23, 2013

You guys out there are performing an enormous job.

Pensacola Thai Yoga Massage Therapist

3:48AM PDT on May 4, 2013

Massage is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

9:26AM PDT on May 3, 2013


11:24AM PST on Dec 22, 2012

I'm a Massage Therapist for 12 years and I know how massage could be a pain killer when the right technique is applied on. It's really beneficial, but sometimes, depending on the pain levels and other conditions, just one session is not enough. So, it's necessary to do more treatments to have the better results.

7:14PM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

massage is fantastic and insurance should cover it. who can afford it regularly? i can't personally but fortunately my bf can and we go often.

4:03PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Totally agree......Thanx

2:32PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Thanks for sharing this, in many cases therapeutic massage will work quite well, and there are no side effects.

9:50PM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

Yea for massage therapy!

2:17PM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

I've been a massage therapist for over 26 years. First of all, most therapist would not have you on a table with your head proped on towels. A massage table would either have a face hole, or a padded face cradle that extends from the end of the table. And secondly, the body IS NOT A MACHINE! Machines do not regenerate tissue and turn food into compounds that are usable to its self.The body is an animal, a mammal. I don't know how people in the health field can keep mindlessly repeating that worn out phrase from the last century. This is important because you treat machinery very differently than you treat a charished animal, and if there is any animal you need to value, it's the one you live in and message on a regular basis would make a world of difference to over all health. Do not use the excuse that insurence doesn't cover it to deny yourself the huge benefits of massage. And if you can't afford it, then insist on a one payer health care system that by-passes insurence companies and lets you spend your health care dollors on what ever helps you, even if western medicine thinks it's bogus.Down thru the decades, they do not have that great a track record for keeping people healthy. And staying healthy is indeed the first line of action.

11:08PM PDT on May 31, 2012

nice, but expensive :)

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