Most people think of massage an indulgence rather than as a complementary, therapeutic treatment. While a massage can be a very enjoyable experience, it can also be a helpful treatment for chronic pain.
How does Massage Therapy Work?
Massage therapy is generally used to reduce pain, improve circulation and flexibility, and lower stress levels. Massage eases pain and improves circulation by increasing the blood flow to stiff and sore joints and muscles. Massage signals our brain to lower the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases the production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps the body and mind relax. Massage also increases levels of serotonin, a mood enhancing chemical. This explains why we feel much better physically and emotionally.
There is growing scientific evidence that massage therapy can help patients with a range of chronic pain conditions. A major study funded by the National Institutes of Health in 2009 showed reduction in pain and improved functionality for osteoarthritis patients treated with Swedish massage therapy. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at 262 patients who were treated for back pain with Massage therapy found that 74% of the patients reported that Massage therapy had helped alleviate their symptoms.
People living with chronic pain often find that they get better quality sleep after massage sessions. Many people living with chronic joint pain are also deprived of deep, restorative sleep, which can lead the body to release natural pain chemicals. This can leave a person feeling fatigued and anxious. Regular massages help promote better sleep, give us more energy during the day and reduce feelings of pain and anxiety.
Is Massage Safe?
Massage therapy is a drug-free and non-invasive treatment option, but it is not completely risk-free. People with medical conditions should consult a doctor before trying massage. Some massage techniques involve moderate to heavy pressure and manipulation of the spine and other joints, and this can potentially injure people with weakened ligaments, joints and bones. It is particularly important to be careful if severe arthritis, hypertension, osteoporosis, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and blood clotting problems are present.
While massage cannot replace established medical treatments, it may help to reduce the dosage of medications we require by relieving some pain and discomfort.
Perlman AI; Ali A; Njike VY; Hom D; Davidi A; Gould-Fogerite S; Milak C; Katz DL. PLoS One. Epub. Feb 8, 2012; Volume 7, Issue 2.
Perlman AI; Sabina A; Williams AL; Njike VY; Katz DL. Archives of Internal Medicine. December 11-25, 2006; Volume 166, Issue 22. Pages 2533-2538.