Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wednesday Wellness: Massage is Powerful Medicine for Pain

One of the primary reasons our clients come to see us is pain management without medication's side effects. Pain can be related to:
  • Repetitive motion injury 
  • Strain from strenuous physical activity 
  • Muscle spasms
  • Accidental injury 
  • Post-surgery pain
  • Headaches /migraines
  • Chronic illnesses 
  • Long-term stress affecting the body's nervous system
Research has found that massage can affect the activity of certain genes, directly reducing the inflammation in muscles, similar in effect to taking an aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen-based painkillers.

Massage can set off a series of molecular events in muscles that reduces the discomfort from the stress of exertion from exercise. For example. massage can dampen the activity of proteins known as inflammatory cytokines, which cause inflammation and pain. It can also increase levels of other proteins that signal the muscles to produce more mitochondria, the cell structures that produce energy and help muscles recover from activity.

In the cases of accidental injury, post-surgical pain, and muscle spasms/cramps, a great benefit of massage comes from the increase it causes in the circulation of blood, lymphatic fluid, and endorphins in the body. Pain from muscle spasms or damaged tissue is significantly reduced by getting your muscles what they need: increased blood flow, bringing healing nutrients and oxygen to the tissues while carrying away waste products. The result is a reduction in stiffness and swelling, as well as increased flexibility, all of which reduces pain.

In the case of a pain-generating illness such as diabetic neuropathy or fybromyalgia, case studies suggest that specific massage protocols (as outlined here ) can significantly reduce the painful symptoms associated with these conditions and enhance quality of life, including reduction of medication levels. Pre-gangrenous tissue in diabetic patients can be returned to health, and clients who previously lived with extreme foot pain can achieve the full use of pain-free limbs.

Headache pain can be from muscle-tension headaches, or vascular headaches (which includes migraines).  Massage is one natural alternative to allopathic medicine that can help relieve headaches while avoiding the side effects that often accompany prescription and over-the-counter headache medications. Massage therapy helps to relieve both types of headaches by easing muscle tension, relieving muscle spasms, releasing shortened muscles and relaxing tension held in the muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck. When muscle tension eases, there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that supply them. As oxygen-rich blood circulation improves, symptoms of pain can be greatly reduced.

Massage therapy not only helps the muscles of the body to relax, but also effectively reduces the anxiety and mental stress that can cause headaches. Regular, ongoing massage therapy can also help to prevent headaches by helping to reduce overall stress and the muscle tension that can trigger headache pain and by helping to maintain emotional balance.

These are just a few examples of the benefits of massage therapy on a variety of pain-causing imbalances in the body. It is one of the most profound senses of accomplishment to help relieve our clients of their discomfort, and we hope to continue to be a benefit for many years to come!

by Hans Piwenitzky, co-owner of Acujin Holistic Therapies, working with a team of wellness practitioners in central San Diego.

I am a California licensed massage therapist, as well as a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner  (HHP) with 14 years of experience in the holistic field. I am trained in a variety of healing modalities including Swedish, Deep tissue, Myofascial Release, Acupressure and Trigger-point therapy, as well as Reiki techniques. 

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