One hundred million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain. On a larger scale, 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain is a persistent pain, caused by pain signals that continue to fire off in your body for long periods of time. Chronic pain can last for days or even for years.
There are a lot of things that can cause chronic pain; an old injury or surgery incision site, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, migraines, shingles, or nerve damage. When the cause of the pain cannot be identified, the patient may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if he meets the other diagnostic criteria for the pathology.
This pain can have a serious impact on the patient’s life. In the Voices of Chronic Pain Survey done in 2006, out of 303 respondents, 51% felt like they had little or no control over their pain. Seventy percent had trouble concentrating, 86% reported difficulty sleeping, 77% reported symptoms of depression, and 59% reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life. Chronic pain can also have an impact on the patient’s work life, with 20% taking a disability leave from work, and 17 % changing jobs. Thirteen percent of patients with chronic pain move to homes that are easier to manage.
Typical treatments for chronic pain include surgery, lifestyle change, physical therapy, narcotic pain medication, and local anesthesia.
So, how can massage aid in the struggle against chronic pain? Well there is plenty that massage can do, besides relieving tension in muscles that may cause pain. Massage increases the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that produces a good mood. A lack of this neurotransmitter causes feelings of depression, which as mentioned above, is a common complication of chronic pain. Massage also decreases production of the stress-causing hormone cortisol. All-in-all, massage improves mood. Massage increases range of motion by decreasing stiffness caused by arthritis and fibromyalgia, and also promotes a deeper sleep. It can also help decrease pain caused by migraines by relieving stiffness in the neck muscles.
Massage therapy is not typically the “go-to” approach for common maladies, but doctors all over the world are beginning to take it seriously as a complimentary treatment. That’s probably because, according to Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) of Miami, massage has had a positive effect on every pathology that TRI has studied.
As always, I remind you that it is always in your best interest to follow the directions of your primary care physician. Some massage therapists claim that massage is an alternative form of treatment. IT IS NOT! It is only complimentary. Massage therapists are not doctors. We cannot diagnose you, and we cannot prescribe the best way to treat your maladies. What we can do, is educate our clients and medical practitioners on the effects that massage has on the body and how we can help, in tandem with your current treatment.
Always keep massage in mind when you’re looking for alternate health care options. If you’re not sure if massage can help you, just ask a massage therapist!
American Academy of Pain Management