By Michelle Fletcher, B.A.
Each day, more and more Americans are turning to massage therapy to ease pain. Ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome, to chronic arthritis, massage therapy techniques are helping patients of all walks of life get back on their feet again. Just about every culture has used a form of massage for pain relief. Although its healing powers were muted by modern medicine, a growing number of people are returning to its age-old healing properties. The Journal of Rheumatoidology reports that over 70 percent of doctors refer their patients to massage therapy.
Massage for pain relief eases discomfort in a number of ways. “Manual massage is a long established and effective therapy used for the relief of pain, swelling, muscle spasm and restricted movement, ” as noted in a study at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. First, massage encourages blood flow to the sore, muscles or stiff joints and warms the area. According to a study at Peninsula Medical School, “The mechanical action of the hands on cutaneous and subcutaneous structures is believed to enhance the circulation of blood and lymph resulting in increased supply of oxygen and removal of waste products or mediators of pain. ” Massage also triggers the release of natural painkillers called opiods in the brain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Third, massage speeds up the flow of oxyctocin, a hormone that relaxes muscles and encourages feelings of calmness and contentment. “Most importantly perhaps, a massage can relax the mind and reduce anxiety, which may affect the perception of pain positively. ” The benefits of a good massage are overwhelming and contribute to overall health and well-being.
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Massage therapy is proven effective in easing tightness and pain in lightly to moderately stressed muscles – it is also used in alleviating chronic pain. A 2001 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine discovered that massage was far superior to acupuncture in relieving chronic lower back pain. After 10 weeks, nearly three-fourths of the 262 patients studied said massage was “very helpful” in relieving their pain. Patients who got regular massage treatments were four times less likely to become bedridden due to chronic pain. The authors of the study concluded that “massage might be an effective alternative to conventional medical care for persistent back pain.”
Massage is also extremely safe. When performed by an experienced, licensed professional, therapeutic massage for pain relief can ease tension, knots and soreness in the body. Those suffering from open wounds, eczema, broken bones or advanced osteoporosis should talk to a doctor before making an appointment with a massage therapist, because some massage may cause further damage in frail bodies. This is especially true with more forceful forms of massage, like shiatsu. Still, massage is overwhelmingly beneficial for most patients and can help ease the majority of aches and pains one may have.
Goats, GC. Massage- the scientific basis of an ancient art: Part 1. The Techniques. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 1994 Sep;28(3):149-52.
Ernst E. “Massage treatment for back pain. BMJ. 2003 March 15;326(7389):562-563.