Injuries like chronic back pain, trick knees, tennis elbow, and sticky shoulders are not necessarily something you just have to live with. Massage techniques might hold the key to unlocking and decreasing these, and many more, old pains. The benefits of massage will depend on the extent of the injury, how long ago it occurred, and on the skill of the therapist. Chronic and old injuries often require deeper and more precise treatments with less emphasis on general relaxation.
Massage works best for soft tissue injuries to muscles and tendons and is most effective in releasing adhesions and lengthening muscles that have shortened due to other muscles compensating for the injury. Tight and “ropey” muscles not only hurt at the muscle or its attachment to the bone, but can also interfere with proper joint movement and cause pain that can show up far away from the original injury (pain referral). Therapists who are experts at targeting referred pain are best found by looking at their training. Experience with trigger point, neuromuscular massage and myofascial release therapies are often techniques they will practice. Most qualified therapists will take a whole-body approach, building in these types of massage as needed and mixing it with traditional relaxation techniques that have other benefits for the body.
Discuss your old injury issues with your massage therapist. Together, the two of you can work to determine a therapy plan.
A Consumer Reports article suggested that massage recipients got equal relief, whether they went to a chiropractor or a massage therapist, in many areas, including back and neck pain. Massage also ranked significantly higher in pain abatement and overall body benefit than some other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy or drugs.
“Massage may be worth trying if you have back pain that has lasted longer than three months. Other treatments for back pain include exercises, painkillers, therapy to help you cope with pain, and spinal manipulation. Stronger painkillers and drugs to relax your muscles may help, but they can cause side effects.” Consumer Reports (2011)
So, if that old injury pops up again, don’t run to the medicine cabinet, book a massage.