For many people, joint pain and muscle stiffness are a daily nuisance. Joints in the hands, wrists and feet get stiff and sometimes painful to move. Sometimes it’s hard to get up out of a chair or button a shirt. Or you might have a nagging lower back ache, or that shoulder that just won’t relax. The good news is that relief may come from something you may have never considered–massage.
What’s the cause?
The first step might be to examine your lifestyle and see if there are factors that might be aggravating or causing aches and pains. Take a look at your pillow, and how you sleep. Check your shoes and make sure they’re the right fit, both for your feet and the activity you’re doing. Examine your work posture. Are you lifting things correctly? Is your posture the best it can be while you’re spending hours in front of a computer screen? Are you bending your neck and texting all the time? This list hits the likely targets, and the things also very much helped with the help of a qualified massage therapist.
If none of these resonate, and you’re experiencing ongoing pain, it’s a good idea to go see a doctor. Sometimes there is hidden injury from trauma or overuse that needs intervention beyond that which a good physical therapist or massage therapist might offer.
When does massage work?
The health benefits of massage are many. It is important to note, however, that massage is not a cure for most things, but it can go a LONG way to reducing uncomfortable symptoms and reducing stress related to the condition. Clients continue to experience profound reduction in aches and pain resulting for many common maladies. Reducing stress is also ALWAYS good, whether you have a stress-related or stress-aggravated condition or not.
Check out this impressive list of conditions generated from records of actual massage therapy clients. They report symptom reduction or relief issues they encountered with these conditions:
- Anger management
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Back pain
- Body image improvement
- Cancer (eases symptoms of treatments)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chronic and acute pain
- Circulatory problems
- Edema (swelling)
- Emotional stability
- Gastro-intestinal disorders (including IBS, spastic colon, colic and constipation)
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Heel Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- HIV, AIDS
- Hospice care
- Immune function disorders
- Lower back pain
- Muscle spasms
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Overuse of muscles
- Pain relief
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Post-partem depression
- Post-operative recovery (after surgery, with a doctor’s permission)
- Prenatal and post-natal aches and pains
- Reduced range of motion
- Reduced flexibility
- RSI (Repetitive Strain/Stress Injury)
- Self confidence (improvement)
- Scar tissue (can promote healing and reduce scarring)
- Sciatica and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (due to peripheral nerve impingement)
- Sleep Apnea
- Sports injuries (including pulled or strained muscles and ligaments)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Running injuries
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion
- Tennis Elbow
- Tension headaches
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
- Test anxiety
- Trauma (caused by accident or injury, or psychological issues)
- Trigger points
That’s a long list. Remember that massage focuses on easing symptoms, not a cure, so you should include massage along with other lifestyle changes like improving your diet, getting exercise, avoiding toxins in your environment, and, in some cases, treatment by a medical professional.
Taking control of joint and muscle pain is all about knowing your options. Whether you’ve already tried other treatments, or not, massage is certainly worth considering. Make sure you find a therapist who is familiar with your condition before you book your appointment. Just ask when you make the appointment. And if you are currently under a physician’s care for your illness or condition, check in with them to make sure it won’t interfere with other treatments.
Many of these conditions are covered under separate articles (see the links on this page), but if you’d like to do more research about how massage can help you, try the following sources:
- Currin, J. Meister, E.A. (2008) A hospital-based intervention using massage to reduce distress among oncology patients. Cancer Nurs. 31(3):214-21.
- Preyde M. (2003) Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Soft Tissue Manipulation, 8, 4 – 10.
Perlman AI, Sabina A, Williams AL, Njike VY, Katz DL. (2006) Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Arch Intern Med. 166(22):2533-8.
- Piotrowski, M., Paterson, C., Mitchinson, A., Kim, H. M., Kirsh, M., Hinshaw, D. B. (2003) Massage as Adjuvant Therapy in the Management of Acute Postoperative Pain: A Preliminary Study in Men. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 197(6), 1037-1046.
- Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., Bresee, C. (2010) A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(10), 1-10.
- Field, T., Diego, Miguel, Cullen, Christy, Hartshorn, Kristin, Gruskin, Alan, Hernandez-Reif, Maria, Sunshine, William. (2004). Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened following massage. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 8:9-14.
- Hernandez-Reif M, Field T, Krasnegor J, Theakston H, Hossain Z, Burman I (2000). High blood pressure and associated symptoms were reduced by massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 4, 31 – 38.
- Quinn C, Chandler C, Moraska A. Massage Therapy & Frequency of Chronic Tension Headaches. (2002) American Journal of Public Health. 92(10):1657-61
Reader M, Young R, Connor JP. (2005) Massage therapy improves the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. J AlternComplement Med. 11(2):311-3. PMID: 15865498.
- American College of Physicians. (2008) Massage Therapy May Have Immediate Positive Effect On Pain And Mood For Advanced Cancer Patients. Science Daily 16 September.
- Castro-Sánchez, A.M., Matarán–Peñarrocha, G.A., Granero-Molina, J., Aguilera–Manrique, G., Quesada–Rubio, J.M., Moreno-Lorenzo, C. (2011). Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011:561753.
- Massage Therapy Foundation. http://www.massagetherapyfoundation.org/research-tools/