Massage Away Pain

September 18, 2015

A study of back pain patients demonstrated that massage helped reduce pain and improve function more rapidly than usual medical care in people with chronic low-back pain.  According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low-back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. How does massage result in pain relief?

Dr. Kathy Gruver

Dr. Kathy Gruver

AMC_Front_CoverSalonpas interviewed Dr.  Kathy Gruver, who has an award-winning massage and natural health practice and is the author of three books, including The Alternative Medicine Cabinet and her newest book, the Journey of Healing

How often should a pain sufferer receive a massage?

It does depend on what is causing the pain and the level of pain. Someone who was just in a car accident and still sore might not be able to have much massage at first. In an ideal world, someone could do weekly massage. But I don’t recommend you wait longer than tree weeks as you start to lose the cumulative benefits. Often in therapeutic sessions you will do two shorter massages a week. Sometimes this is dictated by insurance billing.

What types of pain are best reduced by massage?

Muscle pain (of course), post-sports event, headaches benefit greatly from massage. Joint pain can actually be helped, like knee pain. Back/neck pain is of course, the most popular.

What types of massage are best for reducing pain?

I personally use deep tissue and trigger point work. It gets to the root of the problem and alleviates it. However, someone might not be able to handle that pressure, like is often the case in fibromyalgia. That person might need to do more light work like Swedish or basic massage.

imagesWhat other physical benefits does massage offer?

A massage releases ‘feel good’ hormones in the brain, stimulates the relaxation response, which is opposite of the fight or flight stress response. Massage increases circulation, flushes toxins from the body and just feels darn good.

How can someone find a qualified massage therapist?

Referrals are great. Be wary of some of the shopping center discount massage places that are popping up. The therapists might not be trained to handle your issues because often they are right out of school.

Look for someone trained in medical or therapeutic massage. For pain, a spa might not be what you need either. Ask what they specialize in and if they’ve had experience with the type of pain you are dealing with. A poorly trained massage therapist CAN hurt you. Clear communication is key to having a good experience. Never let the therapist tell you that they know better and that an intense amount of pain is what you need during your session. One thing I will add is it’s important to know what is causing the pain in many cases. A headache could just be a tension headache or it could be a brain tumor. I had a client with shoulder pain that wasn’t getting better with massage or chiropractic. She finally went for an MRI to make sure she didn’t have a tear and it turns out her body was riddled with cancer. She was dead seven months later. An extreme story for sure, but it’s important to check what the cause might be if it’s long term pain that isn’t getting better.

journey_of_healing_cover What type of training does a massage therapist need?

It really varies from state to state. Most need proof of hours form a state approved school which includes class hours and hands on massage time. The hours vary from 200-1500. Some states require that you take an exam. But I personally think those are ridiculous. It just proves you can pass a multiple choice test, not that you are a good therapist. Therapists should be licensed in whatever state (or city/county) you are in and have insurance.

What is the role of massage and anxiety reduction?

It can definitely help because massage relaxes the whole system. And it releases ‘feel good’ hormones in the brain. Touch is so important. For someone that has anxiety issues, check and make sure that touch is OK with them and that draping is modest.

To find a qualified massage therapist, recommendations from friends and family members can be useful, but also check the websites of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and the American Massage Therapy Association; which let you search for therapists by location.

Due to the recognized benefits of massage in managing pain, some health insurance plans cover massage therapy for certain conditions. Speak to your health insurance provider about their rules for reimbursement.

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