Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain

Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain

Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain

Have you been living with persistent pain for months? Perhaps you injured yourself a while back, but the pain never resolved. At MSK Health and Performance Clinics, we understand how frustrating this experience can be. Fortunately, our integrated approach to pain management can help you find relief. One technique we offer is massage therapy for chronic pain.

Most of us have heard of massage, although we may associate it with spas, scented oils, and soft music. Massage therapy, however, uses massage techniques as a therapeutic tool to manage pain or other health conditions and promote overall wellness. At our Vancouver clinic, we often incorporate it alongside physiotherapy and chiropractic techniques to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.

Massage therapy can be particularly beneficial for people with chronic pain conditions. Chronic pain is an extremely complex condition that can impact your emotional and psychological well-being alongside your physical health. Because massage therapy can promote relaxation and reduce stress, it helps address all the many facets of living with chronic pain.

Keep reading to learn more about massage therapy for chronic pain: what it entails, how it works, and why you might want to try it yourself!

Chronic Pain: More Than Just an Injury

Not all pain is the same. In fact, experts generally divide pain into two broad categories: acute pain and chronic pain.

Acute pain is the pain you experience when something’s not right with your body, usually the result of an injury. For example, if you hit your funny bone or stub your toe, you’ll experience a burst of pain (that will probably fade in a few moments). Officially, acute pain is any pain that resolves after three months.

Chronic pain is different. Experts define it as any pain that persists after three months–or the time it would take for an injury to health. For that reason, chronic pain is much more complex than acute pain. It might have begun as acute pain resulting from an injury but, over time, has developed into a separate condition.

When someone has chronic pain, their brain continues to send pain signals to their body even though nothing is technically wrong, putting their nervous system on high alert. This causes their body to interpret any sensation in the affected area as pain.

Because there’s no underlying physical cause, chronic pain can be extremely difficult to treat. There’s also a psychological component to the pain in that it might worsen in times of stress, depression, or anxiety. Here are some of the complaints that often accompany chronic pain:

  • You feel as if your entire body hurts, not just one area.
  • Your pain moves from one area of your body to another.
  • The pain worsens if you start to think about it.
  • You’ll experience sudden sharp stabs of pain.
  • You often feel fatigued, anxious, or depressed.
  • The pain seems to “react” to negative experiences in your life.

Why Massage Therapy Can Help With Chronic Pain

Managing chronic pain is notoriously difficult. While exercise and regular movement help, the pain often feels too overwhelming to start. You may feel you can’t tolerate even gentle exercise, such as stretching or walking.

That’s why we take an integrated approach to addressing chronic pain here at MSK Health and Performance Clinics. Our physiotherapists can suggest exercises to strengthen and stretch your body, which helps in the long run–but our massage therapists will get you to a place where you can begin exercising in the first place.

Massage therapy involves manipulating the body’s soft tissue (your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia) to promote blood circulation and reduce restrictions in the tissue. This process not only helps with pain relief, but it can also help you feel more relaxed–which, for people with chronic pain, can actually help lessen their pain in and of itself.

What To Expect from a Massage Therapy Session

While massage therapy isn’t the same as a visit to a spa, we still want you to feel comfortable and relaxed. After a gentle, hands-on evaluation that lets us know which areas need attention, we’ll have you stretch out on a massage table or settle down in a chair. We might take you through some deep breath exercises to further help with relaxation.

As for the massage itself, our therapists have several different techniques that we can choose from. We tailor your massage therapy sessions to suit your needs and address your specific areas of impairment, often working alongside your physiotherapist.

Some of the techniques we pull from include the following:

  • Soft Tissue Manipulation: This technique involves kneading and manipulating your muscles and other soft tissue. It’s probably the closest to the classic massage most people are familiar with.
  • Joint Mobilizations: This involves gently guiding a joint through its current range of motion–never forcing or thrusting. It can help ease restrictions on your range of motion so you can move more freely.
  • Myofascial Release: Your myofascia is a tough, flexible tissue that wraps around your muscles. It can lead to pain throughout your body if it becomes tight or restricted. By working out those restrictions, we can reduce pain and improve mobility.
  • Trigger Point Therapy: Trigger points are nodules that develop in the fascia. They might hurt in and of themselves, or they might defer pain elsewhere in your body. We’ll gently work them out so you can find relief.

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Physiotherapy

Chronic pain can be incredibly debilitating. It keeps people from staying active and often isolates them from their friends and family. At MSK Health and Performance Clinics, we believe a holistic approach is one of the best ways to manage your condition. Massage therapy for chronic pain will prepare your body for therapeutic exercise while soothing anxiety and helping you to relax.

If you struggle with chronic pain, request an appointment at our clinic today. Our compassionate therapists are here to help you find the relief you deserve!


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