Massage Therapy’s Role in Chiropractic Medicine
While pain is the most glaring sign that something is wrong in the body, other symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, stress and depression, insomnia, and poor immune and digestive health are all indicative of a larger problem. When formulating treatment plans, massage therapy is an often undervalued aspect of holistic medicine that can not only provide relief but also promote healing in the body.
Often compared to chiropractic, therapeutic massage is a drastically different treatment. However, these therapies go hand-in-hand to provide patients with the utmost relief and recovery.
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is a type of treatment in which a trained and licensed medical professional uses varying degrees of pressure and movement to manipulate the soft tissue of the body. This includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, and skin.
There is a plethora of reasons why massage therapy is good for overall health, including reducing pain and muscle tension, easing stress, promoting healing, and reducing negative symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, and more. It is increasingly becoming known as a key aspect of complementary and integrative medicine, as its own healing properties can help improve the effects of corresponding therapies.
More than ever, clinics, hospitals, chiropractic offices, and even some workplaces are offering massage therapy as a treatment to help expedite the healing process. Massage therapy can even be recommended to help patients ease the pain and stress of cancer, heart disease, digestive problems, fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions.
How Does Massage Therapy Work?
The effectiveness of massage therapy comes from the pressure and movements used to manipulate the soft tissue of the body. Using specific motions, a massage therapist targets individual muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue. Much like how a chiropractor manipulates the bones, joints, and discs of the musculoskeletal system, a massage therapist manually adjusts the soft tissue of the body so that everything is working in harmony.
Overall wellness means that each part of your body – from the smallest nerve to the largest bone – is in alignment with its neighboring parts. When an underlying problem is present in the body, such as postural alignment, a herniated disc, or even arthritis, it’s not just your bones that feel the wear and tear. The soft tissue of the body that helps you to move, twist, and bend, feels the effects as well. They will respond to any imbalance in the body, and that’s what massage therapy aims to treat.
There is a variety of massage techniques, from the popular Swedish massage to deep tissue massages, which are typically used to treat muscle damage from injuries. The motions in these techniques vary, as the former includes long strokes, kneading, and circular movements, whereas the latter requires more pressure to release tension from tight muscles. Other common forms of massage therapy include:
- Sports massage
- Neonatal massage
- Trigger point massage
- Shiatsu massage
- Hot stone massage
How Does Massage Therapy Differ from Chiropractic?
Whereas massage therapy and chiropractic have very similar goals, they are still vastly different. There are a few key differences to note, beginning with the most obvious: certifications. Chiropractors have attended four years of school to gain a thorough understanding of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Chiropractors are known as Doctors of Chiropractic, abbreviated as D.C.
This is why chiropractors have the ability to make medical diagnoses, request medical imaging such as x-rays, and request blood work. Chiropractors are also qualified to manipulate the bones of the body, including the spine. Massage therapists, on the other hand, do not have these same privileges. While massage therapists are indeed trained and certified professionals, they do not have the ability to make diagnoses or request testing, nor can they adjust the bones of the body.
For this reason, chiropractors and massage therapists do have different approaches to treatment. Chiropractic handles bones like vertebrae, spinal discs, joint health, and nerve health. Massage therapists handle the soft tissue that supports these structures. However, the two work in tandem. At ChiroCare of Florida, our office utilizes both chiropractic and therapeutic massage services to provide the best possible healing experience.
Who Can Benefit from Massage Therapy?
The purpose of massage therapy is to provide relief from issues of the soft tissue, as well as promote healing throughout the body. Massage therapy has many benefits, including:
- Improving posture
- Easing muscle pain and tension
- Relieving headaches
- Improving sleep quality
- Strengthening the immune system
- Decreasing stress and anxiety
- Improving recovery time
Massage therapy is frequently used to treat scar tissue in the body. Unlike standard soft tissue, scar tissue that results after an injury or surgery is stiff and lacks mobility. It can cause pain as well as decrease range of motion. Massage therapy techniques can effectively break down the collagen that makes up the scar tissue, improving the flexibility of the tissue and helping to alleviate pain.
Likewise, massage therapy is a fantastic complementary treatment for chiropractic adjustments. Many chiropractors have a massage therapist in their office and will recommend patients receive a massage before an adjustment, after an adjustment, or both. This is because therapeutic massage will increase blood flow to the area, help to decrease any swelling, and relieve the tension from tight muscles to easier adapt to improved alignment.
What Are the Risks of Massage Therapy?
In general, most people can benefit from massage therapy. However, as with all treatments, there are a few exceptions. Massage therapy may not be appropriate if you have:
- Burns or healing wounds
- Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
- Deep vein blood clots
- Severe osteoporosis
Some forms of massage, such as deep tissue, may leave you feeling slightly sore the next day. This is completely normal and typically indicates that your tissues are responding to the tension relief they’ve been given.
While pain can be your first indicator of a problem, listen to your body. If you’ve been experiencing muscle soreness, fatigue, insomnia, or feel as though your body’s systems are not operating at 100%, talk to your doctor about therapeutic massage. Contact ChiroCare of Florida today to learn more about what massage therapy can do for you as part of your course of treatment, and to make an appointment for chiropractic massage therapy at an office near you.