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Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain Management

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Some degree of muscle strain is usually a contributing factor to chronic pain. A common form of pain management to ease stained muscles and other soft tissues is massage therapy. Fibromyalgia, arthritis, knee osteoarthritis, and non-specific low back pain are among the chronic conditions that may be successfully managed with some type of manual manipulation.

Trigger Point Massage Therapy

It’s not unusual for a tight area within a muscle tissue, referred to as a trigger point, to be a source of recurring pain felt elsewhere in the body. Chronic pain of this nature may be treated with trigger point massage therapy, which involves deep breathing and input from the patient to confirm the suspected location that’s triggering pain. If trigger point massage therapy isn’t effective, a trigger point injection may be recommended to deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly to the affected muscle tissue.

Other Forms of Massage Therapy

With Swedish massage, light to medium pressure is applied to the muscles that are tense or stiff. A deep tissue massage targets knots in deeper muscle layers to ease chronic muscle tension. Sports massages are specific to muscles or tissues that have been overused or over-extended from the repetitious or strenuous motions or movements associated with various sports-related activities.

Possible Benefits

As is the case with acupuncture, which also involves manipulate of soft tissues, massage therapy increases the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that naturally reduces pain. It’s also believed that the act of stimulating muscles increases the production of endorphins. Originating in the pituitary gland in the brain, these hormones are the body’s natural pain-relievers that help ease sensations experienced within the peripheral nervous system. There’s also evidence that massage therapy may have the following benefits:

  • Naturally increasing deeper, recuperative stages of sleep
  • Release of tension or stiffness within muscles
  • Reinforcement of natural movements, which may help improve posture and further minimize pressure on muscles and joints

When to Consider MT for Pain Relief

Massage therapy is typically among one of the first attempts at pain management recommended for patients with chronic discomfort. It may be combined with other treatments, including the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other forms of physical therapy, such as muscle-strengthening exercises, electrotherapy, and the application of heat and cold.

Multiple studies on massage therapy show that patients often enjoy increased range of motion, reduced fatigue, less stress and anxiety, and noticeable improvement with pain management and physical function. Massage therapy for chronic pain is often more effective when an accurate diagnosis of the source of pain has been made since sessions can be better tailored to address specific trigger points or muscle groups.