Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than six months. It is often a multi-system output, meaning there can be many aspects to one’s pain. Often, the pain is no longer indicating tissue damage but is now an output of the brain as well. Stress, emotional pain or issues, as well as general lack of healthy habits can be caused by chronic pain and can also contribute to increased sensations.
How Can Massage Therapy Help With Chronic Pain?
Massage therapy can be an important treatment for chronic pain. Massage techniques can help to alleviate pain, tension or tightness associated with chronic pain syndromes. The massage can also help to “desensitize” or decrease the pain sensation as it goes to the brain by overriding it with a different sensation (such as the sensation of touch, massaging, etc).
Massages can also help to decrease stress. Stress levels are often high when one is in pain, and chronic pain conditions can be worsened by a high stress level. The relaxation effects of massage can actually help to tone down the heightened state of the nervous system, and decrease stress hormones.
Emotional pain and/or fear associated with being in chronic pain are often impactful as well. Massage therapy can help to increase endorphins, aka “happy chemicals,” and make emotional issues and fear seem less overwhelming. Fear of movement can often cause people to move less, which can make the pain worse. Massages that involve movement or stretching can actually give people more confidence with movement and thus can help to increase activity levels. An example of this is sports massage.
Healthy habits such as getting quality sleep can also help to dampen down pain sensations and aid in proper pain processing in the brain. Sleep can be improved with regular massages due to the calming effects. Some people even sleep during their massage because they are so relaxed! Some relaxing massage therapy techniques are effleurage, deep tissue, and feathering massage techniques.
Chronic pain is a complex issue, and massage can be an impactful aspect of treatment. With that, there are often-times multiple realms of healthcare that are important to approach this condition with, such as mental health, physical therapy, medical, psychologist and/or chronic pain management.
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