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Benefits of Massage on Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is something that is experienced by a large part of the population; 1 in 5 Australians aged 45 and over report this sort of persistent pain.  But what is chronic pain?  Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond normal healing time after injury or illness, normally over 3 months.  And whilst being physical in nature, chronic pain can also contribute to mental and emotional conditions such depression and anxiety, and also disturb sleep patterns, leading to fatigue; it can therefore significantly impact overall quality of life.  Chronic pain can occur as a result of a direct injury, and can also be associated with comorbid  condition (such as arthritis, cancer,  diabetes,  endometriosis,  multiple  sclerosis,  or  dental condition). 

There are several strategies that can help manage chronic pain, and their efficacy will depend on the type of pain and the individual person. It is important to consult a medical professional to create a holistic pain management plan that is right for the individual.

Pharmaceutical medications, such as anti-inflammatory analgesics, pain killers such as paracetamol, antidepressants and opioids, can help some people, but often have side effects so these need to be carefully weighed up, and tolerance assessed. Natural therapy modalities, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, Reiki, osteopathy and physiotherapy can all be very helpful in relieving chronic pain, as can Remedial massage.  And as well as physical strategies, it might be beneficial to engage with psychological strategies, such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), as well as meditation and breathing techniques to help manage any associated anxiety and depression. Research shows that relaxation techniques can also actually act as a natural pain relief.

Massage has long been known for being relaxing, but can it provide pain relief for people suffering from chronic pain? No matter if the chronic pain is from injury or illness, massage is something that can help to interrupt the cycle of the pain that is being experienced. When there is pain in a part of the body, the muscles around that area tend to tighten and go into spasm to protect that area. With tightened muscles, comes restricted movement and a reduction in blood circulation. Pain then increases as you avoid normal movement, and this restricted movement then causes more pain. This is how chronic pain or long-term injury can lead to a ‘cycle of pain’. 

Remedial massage can help to break this cycle of pain by improving blood circulation to the area, reducing muscle tightness and increasing mobility and range of movement. This, in essence, helps to correct the biomechanics in the body, to help alleviate chronic pain. When we are feeling stressed or anxious, our bodies produce hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline. These can exacerbate the uncomfortable physical, mental and emotional symptoms of chronic pain. Remedial massage can help to combat the stress reaction by eliciting the relaxation response. The relaxation response encourages the body to produce endorphins which lower adrenaline and cortisol levels, reducing tension, and making the person feel generally calmer.

If you are someone who experiences chronic pain, then you shouldn’t underestimate the power of Remedial massage to help the physical, mental and emotional symptoms associated with chronic pain.


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