There’s nothing quite so relaxing as going to a massage. Calming music, soothing scents, and dimmed lights make for the perfect atmosphere to unwind, and the massage itself brings so much relief to muscles you didn’t even know were in pain. Massages feel good. But do they actually help your body heal, or are they just a relaxing luxury?
Massage for pain relief has been the focus of a lot of research over the years. The results are in, and massage has been recognized as a legitimate pain management therapy. You can feel good about treating yourself to a massage knowing that it brings real healing.
1 in 5 Americans suffer from chronic pain of some sort. 80% of all physician visits are prompted by pain, and pain, especially chronic pain, is one of the most complicated conditions to treat. It has physical, emotional, and psychological components, which calls for a multimodal approach to treatment.
Even if you’re being treated for pain with other methods, massage is a great way to complement those therapies for even more relief.
Massage is effective in relieving pain associated with many conditions, including but not limited to shoulder, neck, and back pain, fibromyalgia, post-operative pain, cancer-related pain, and arthritic pain. Not only does it relieve the pain and reduce disability associated with these conditions, but it also improves quality of life and eases some of the psychological and emotional products of pain--like anxiety and depression.
Massage seems to work in several different ways. It increases blood flow to sore muscles and joints, which are warmed and get vital nutrients from the increased circulation. Massage is also understood in animal models to trigger the release of endogenous opioids--naturally occurring pain killers produced by the body. Oxytocin is also released during massage, which helps the body relax and produces feelings of calm and contentment.
Often times, yes! The research on the benefits of massage speaks for itself, and 61% of doctors recommend it as a treatment for chronic pain management, behavioral health treatment, rehabilitation and physical training, and acute medical conditions. Ask your doctor if they recommend it for you.
The American Massage Therapy Association is lobbying for massage to be covered by health insurance given the clear evidence for its health benefits. One of their strongest points is the analysis on the impact it would have in reducing the opioid epidemic. Opioid addiction could be reduced by an estimated 100,000 people a year by using massage therapy for pain relief.
Overall, the risks associated with massage are extremely low. The possible benefits, on the other hand, are extremely high, and the stress relieving properties of a good massage are a great bonus to the real healing it brings.