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Chronic Pain Management: Gaining Relief with Massage


Chronic Pain Management: Gaining Relief with Massage

Higher Practice

Have you been putting your life on hold because of chronic pain and discomfort?

A practical solution is literally just a touch away.

Clinical evidence demonstrates that massage is one of the most effective treatments in a holistic care plan for chronic pain.

This is good news for the 8 out of 10 Americans who suffer from some form of chronic pain on a daily basis. While we all experience physical pain at some point in our lives, most cases are temporary. Chronic pain, however, is the debilitating pain that lasts for long periods of time, often for weeks, months, or even years.

Chronic pain may have snuck up on you from the usual wear and tear that happens to our muscles and joints over time, or from years of slouching over your computer and sitting in your car in traffic.

When we consider the inseparability of the mind and body, which you can read about in my other blog posts on mindfulness, there is no doubt that a body that is free from excess tension and pain leads to improved mental and physical wellbeing.

As a therapist who works in the worlds of body-centered psychotherapy and separately in the world of therapeutic massage and bodywork, I am keenly aware of the emotional challenges that find their way towards manifesting in the body.

After many years of practicing therapeutic bodywork modalities, I’ve discovered that massage alone isn’t the entire equation to gaining lasting relief. There is another component to massage that is needed for it to have lasting effects for the majority of people.

When utilizing massage as an approach to chronic pain, I prioritize helping my clients bring awareness to their bodies in the form of sensation and feelings. By helping clients begin to cultivate body-awareness in the present, I find that clients are well on their way to learning how to navigate chronic pain in entirely new ways.

It's as if they are creating a new operating system for their mind that allows them to return to a fulfilled life even with extreme sensations in the body.

Here are just a few ways we can begin to create change in chronic pain patterns:

Release tension

When we are in pain, our bodies cause tension in our muscles to protect the area that hurts. For an instant, this can be an effective means to retract our body from a dangerous stimuli. However, this tension often remains in our body even after our environment is fully safe and secure. When our muscles stay contracted we limit the body’s natural range of mobility, which exacerbates pain. While there are many other aspects of chronic tension and pain that we will work with, massage facilitates muscle length and relaxation which are important aspects of pain relief from a manual perspective.

Improving movement improves pain cycles

As noted above, an injury often results in a limited range of motion. Perhaps you have found it difficult to perform basic tasks such as walking up and down stairs. Deep tissue work including myofascial therapy targets tension trapped deep within the fascia, the body’s connective tissues. When we live with tension trapped in our body, the default is to move in unnatural patterns that intensify pain. Working with, understanding and minimizing this tension in the body is important for healthy fascia, decreasing pain and proper mobility.

Feel more vitality and energy

Receiving a massage increases the endorphins in our body, the “feel good” chemicals that elevate mood and relieve pain. Receiving a massage triggers physiological responses that tell the body it is safe, thus lowering blood pressure, reducing cortisol levels, and raising endorphins. With massage, you gain amazing physiological benefits that are vital to feeling joyful, rested, and energized throughout the day.

As you can see, massage is not just a luxurious day at the spa, although it has that benefit too. Massage allows you to live and move with less discomfort, more energy, and ultimately a greater sense of who you are and what you want to accomplish in life.