The role of massage therapy in reducing chronic pain-:Complete Guide

Are you struggling with chronic pain? Discover how massage therapy can help.

You’ll uncover the science behind why it works, types of massage techniques and what to expect when you visit a massage therapist. Our complete guide will reveal the power of massage therapy in reducing chronic pain.



Massage therapy is becoming an increasingly popular and accepted method to reduce chronic pain in many individuals who are suffering from long-term discomfort. It is also used to treat acute episodes of pain, as well as conditions such as headaches, joint disorders, and surgical injuries.

This guide covers the various types of massage that can be used for relief from chronic pain, how massage works to reduce symptoms of chronic pain, how to choose a qualified therapist and what you can expect during a session. It will also discuss the potential risks of massage therapy and provide information on other alternative therapies that may offer additional treatments for your condition.

Additionally, this guide provides an overview of the scientific evidence regarding the effects of massage therapy in reducing chronic pain. It is important to note that this document contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider.

Types of chronic pain

Chronic pain can be caused by a wide variety of conditions and can vary drastically in severity and presentation. Common types of chronic pain include:

  1. Muscular/fascial pain: Muscular or fascial pain is often caused by overuse or repetitive strain. It is often characterized as a dull ache, soreness, tightness, or tension in the affected area(s) and levels of intensity may range from mild to severe.
  2. Joint pain: Joint pain may be due to degenerative diseases such as arthritis or injury. Pain associated with arthritis tends to have a deep, burning sensation that persists for long periods of time, sometimes radiating outward from the joint itself.
  3. Neuropathic pain: Neuropathic (or nerve-related) chronic pain is caused by damage to small nerve fibers within the body and may result in burning, shooting or “creeping” sensations that affect both peripheral nerves (outside limbs) and central nervous system areas such as the spine/back (lower back and neck).
  4. Psychological/emotional pain: There are several forms of psychological/emotional chronic pain including depression, grief/bereavement, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These forms of psychological distress can manifest into physical conditions including fibromyalgia which may exhibit similar symptoms as those listed above; including muscular tension, joint discomfort and nerve-related issues such as tingling or even temporal lobe epilepsy where seizures can cause limb weakness in addition to cognitive issues including memory loss.

Neuropathic pain

Neuropathic pain is a complex sensation that has been described as a burning, tingling, stabbing or electrical sensation. It is caused by direct damage to the nerves of the body or due to an underlying condition. While there is no cure for this type of chronic pain, massage therapy can be an effective part of an overall pain management program.

The goal of massage therapy for neuropathic pain is to reduce inflammation, improve circulation and relieve muscle tension. Massage therapists will often begin with gentle pressure and range-of-motion exercises in areas around the points of nerve damage in order to increase blood flow and reduce any areas of tightness that may be exacerbating the symptoms. Once these muscles become loosened, deeper tissue manipulation can take place to break up any knots formed from compensatory muscle activity caused by the original nerve dysfunction.

In addition to this manual therapy approach, massage therapists may incorporate specific Swedish massage techniques such as effleurage (deep gliding strokes) and petrissage (kneading) which are known to relax muscles and increase circulation while reducing stress levels associated with persistent pain. Cold packs may be used on sensitive tissues at intervals throughout treatments in order to help counteract any inflammation that has accumulated in those areas; warmth (heat packs) could also be used as appropriate when it helps promote relaxation needed for deeper tissue work or when attempting mobilization techniques.

Musculoskeletal pain

Many people suffer from musculoskeletal pain, including neck, shoulder and back pain. Massage therapy can be an effective treatment for this type of pain. It helps to restore muscle tone, reduce inflammation and improve mobility. Massage therapy helps to increase circulation, enhance relaxation and improve posture. All of these benefits can help reduce pain levels in the body and improve overall comfort levels.

Research has shown massage therapy is an effective treatment for reducing chronic low-back pain better than non-massage therapies such as ultrasound or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Additionally, massage may be a good option for those who don’t get sufficient relief from traditional treatments such as physical therapy or medications.

Massage can also be used to relieve head and neck pain caused by tension headaches or migraines. The targeted use of pressure on specific points can help release muscle tension and improve blood flow throughout the body, relieving pain in the surrounding areas.

While massage may help temporarily relieve some forms of musculoskeletal pain, it’s important to continue regular sessions in order to effectively manage symptoms over time and reduce inflammation that contributes to chronic pain. Depending on one’s condition, it is recommended that adults receive approximately 3 massages a month in order to experience the maximum benefit from massage therapy.

Central pain

Central pain is described as a sensation of burning, aching, or throbbing that originates from within the central nervous system itself. This is distinct from peripheral pain that comes from tissue damage in various parts of the body and is transmitted through nerves to the brain.

Massage therapy has been used with great success to help relieve central pain in individuals who suffer from such conditions as fibromyalgia, spinal cord injury and strokes. While it’s not a cure-all or a replacement for medical treatment, massage therapy can help reduce stress, improve joint mobility and increase circulation, all of which can aid in reducing chronic pain. Massage also offers comfort and relaxation in times of emotional distress associated with chronic pain. For example, deep tissue massage techniques can help ease tightness associated with muscle spasms while light touch techniques provide much needed calming sensations.

In addition to providing physical benefits, massage therapy also provides psychological benefits such as relieving stress by helping individuals focus on something else rather than their chronic condition.

Benefits of massage therapy for chronic pain

Massage therapy is a non-invasive and natural method of treating chronic pain. It has been used for centuries and has become more widely accepted by medical professionals in recent years. Massage therapy is often used to reduce symptoms and tension associated with chronic pain such as stiffness, soreness, joint pain, fatigue and headache. It can also help improve relaxation and sleep quality, and increase blood flow to areas of the body in need.

There are a number of ways massage therapy can benefit people suffering from chronic pain. The benefits of massage include:

  • Reducing inflammation: Massage therapy increases blood circulation which helps to remove metabolic waste from the muscles while decreasing inflammation and swelling.
  • Improving range of motion: Massage therapy improves flexibility and range of motion due to increased lubrication in the joints, which helps to decrease pain associated with long hours spent sitting or standing still for long periods at a time.
  • Stimulating endorphin release: During massage, endorphins are released which are natural pain relievers that block the effects of stress hormones like cortisol which can further increase stress levels leading to additional issues like headaches or fatigue.
  • Reducing anxiety: Receiving regular massages helps reduce anxiety levels as it decreases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
  • Relieving muscle spasms: Due to its effects on both muscular relaxation as well as endorphin release, massage therapy is often beneficial for individuals suffering from muscle spasms due to chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis (MS).

These are just some of the vast benefits that massage therapy can offer those suffering from chronic pain conditions such as back pain, arthritis or sciatica. It is important to consult a qualified massage therapist if considering any type of treatment plan that involves massage since every individual’s condition differs but when administered correctly it can have profound effects on an individual’s quality of life!

Techniques used in massage therapy for chronic pain

In order to better understand massage therapy as a treatment for chronic pain, it is important to understand the techniques that are used by practitioners. Each type of massage therapy has different techniques and approaches, but they all share the same goal: to decrease pain and increase overall wellbeing.

Massage therapy can be broken down into four main types—Swedish, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point Therapy and Sports Massage —each with a unique approach.

Swedish massage is the most common type of massage therapy used for relaxation and stress relief. Smooth strokes are used with light pressure to increase overall circulation and improve lymphatic drainage. Swedish massage also helps loosen tight muscles to increase mobility and reduce pain. It is a great choice for those suffering from general aches and pains, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Deep Tissue Massage utilizes slower movements in order to access deeper layers of muscle tissue in order to help release tension stored within them. This type of massage can be very helpful in reducing chronic pain caused by injury or strain on muscles.

Trigger Point Therapy involves rapidly applied pressure on specific points located in muscle fibers that have become tense due to injuries or overuse during activity; this tension can cause referred pain throughout the body when these trigger points are not properly released. Trigger point massage releases these tight spots by creating relaxation during treatment touching these points correctly will send oxygen-rich blood back into these areas thus supplying more flexibility when these areas are healed properly This type of massage will often produce an initial feeling of discomfort before producing desired relief from chronic issues such as stress headaches, shoulder knots or lower back discomfort.

Sports Massage focuses on athletes and active individuals who often experience injuries due to muscle strain from strenuous workouts or sports matches; treatments help promote recovery by focusing on different aspects such as muscle stretching for increased range motion due flexibility , postural alignment work , joint mobilization exercises , aiding in recovery from muscle spasms or cramps. Sports massages can also help improve performance if utilized correctly because treatment normally relieves tensions created from repetitive movements associated with popular sporting activities such as running, biking etc.

Swedish massage

Swedish massage therapy is the most common type of massage therapy used in the United States. It focuses on manipulating the soft tissues with a combination of five styles of long, gliding strokes. The techniques used help to relax tight muscles and improve circulation.

Swedish massage can be both relaxing and energizing, and it has been shown to be effective in reducing chronic pain conditions as well as muscle tension and stress.

During a Swedish massage session, you may experience deeper relaxation when the therapist applies pressure to specific areas that are giving your muscles pain. This style of massage also relieves tension and stiffness, which may be caused by years of physical activity or compensating for bad posture due to an injury or medical condition.

The pressure applied helps reduce inflammation in your joints, increase the level of oxygen in your blood, restore mobility to your muscles, improve circulation throughout your body, reduce fatigue and depression symptoms, relieve anxiety and stress levels, improve sleep quality and lower blood pressure levels.

Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that uses firm pressure and slow strokes to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles). It’s used for chronic aches and pain and contracted areas such as a stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.

Deep tissue massage works by physically breaking down these adhesions to relieve pain. It helps to improve range of motion and heal injuries below the surface. Studies have shown that deep tissue massage can be effective in reducing tension headaches, relieving lower back pain associated with muscle spasm or tension movements, reducing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, decreasing symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis like stiffness or visible physical deformations – such as bowleggedness – due to muscular contractures around the joint areas.

The technique may also be used for postural realignment when you experience neck pain or shoulder problems due to imbalances in your posture – caused by trauma from injury or strain from daily activities like typing at a desk all day. Additionally deep tissue massage works great for sports-related injuries caused by repetitive motions such as golfing or running for distances.

Trigger point therapy

Trigger point therapy is a type of massage technique targeting parts of the body that contain myofascial trigger points, or knots of muscle tension. In some cases, these trigger points can cause pain in other parts of the body when aggravated.

Trigger point therapy uses gentle, sustained pressure to help release muscle tightness and pain associated with those trigger points. Your therapist may apply concentrated circles of pressure on these areas for sustained periods and then dissolve or resolve them with shorter strokes.

Regular treatment can be very effective in reducing chronic pain, especially if it is caused by myofascial tension or knots. It can also provide long-term relief from neck pain and chronic headaches.

How to choose a qualified massage therapist

Selecting a massage therapist is an important decision since it affects the quality and safety of your care. It’s important to consider attitudes and qualifications, as well as the type of massage you are hoping to receive.

When researching a potential therapist, make sure they have current valid qualifications in massage therapy, including any necessary certifications relevant to their specialty. The therapist should be licensed or registered with a regulatory or professional body that enforces the standards of practice for their type of work and have proof of continuing education courses completed.

More specifically, ask about where they trained and how long they have been practicing. It’s important that your therapist shows an interest in your individual case needs along with knowledge about chronic pain conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. Ask what techniques are used during the massage session and how long each technique takes so you know exactly what to expect from them.

Finally, you should feel comfortable with your choice before booking any appointment; it’s useful to book a consultation first if available so that both parties can determine whether there is a good fit before committing to further sessions.

Education and training

Professional massage therapists undergo extensive education and training in order to gain the skills needed to provide high-quality massage therapy for pain relief. Most massage therapists receive training in anatomy and physiology, pathology, kinesiology, and even psychotherapeutic techniques. Depending on the type of massage therapy offered, some states may require additional certifications or classroom/lab hours.

Aside from standard college courses, most states require certifications from approved schools that provide both classroom and clinical experience. Massage therapists must understand body mechanics and be able to communicate effectively with their clients. In addition to instruction in helping people with stress relief or medical conditions, additional topics may include: business practices; disinfecting/sanitizing; laws & regulations; ethics; physiology & kinesiology; tissue evaluation & assessment; treatment protocols & modalities; client record keeping; use of specialized tools/equipment; relevance to healthcare providers & issues concerning injury.

Most states require continuing education credits in order to maintain licensure or certification status. Depending on the locale, these courses could include traditional topics such as radiography or patient communication as well as more unconventional topics like energy healing or reflexology. The objective of continuing education is for massage therapists to stay current on research findings related to their field as well as keep up with the latest technology advancements that might enhance their treatments.

Licensure and certification

Masseuses are typically required to attain licensure from a state board, in order to practice massage therapy. The licenses ensure that certain educational and training requirements have been met; they also grant the therapists the legal authority needed to diagnose and treat disease. In some states, separate licensure is also required for masseuses who wish to practice in a medical setting, such as a hospital or physician’s office.

In many states, massage therapists must have earned certification or passed an exam administered by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) prior to obtaining a license. This certification denotes that the therapist has completed up to 600 hours of education in anatomy and physiology, assessment and evaluation of client needs, kinesiology and pathophysiology, as well as ethics and professional standards. Continuing education is required at intervals throughout their career to keep licensure in good standing.

Experience with chronic pain patients

For decades, massage therapy has been used to provide relief for people suffering from pain related to diseases and other causes. To better understand the effects of massage therapy in reducing chronic pain, it is important to look at the experience of patients who have undergone such treatments.

In general, patients have reported decreased levels of chronic pain after receiving a massage. In one study, 88% of participants reported a decrease in pain intensity after only one session. Additionally, many patients report an increase in range of motion and improved mobility when they regularly receive massage treatments. This is likely due to the fact that these treatments help relax muscles and reduce tension that is often associated with chronic pain.

It is important to note that not all chronic pain sufferers respond positively to massage therapy. Some may find massages uncomfortable or not suitable for their individual needs—or simply may find little benefit from the treatment. Before beginning any new form of treatment or care plan for your health issue, it’s always best to consult with your doctor first so you can get detailed information about what might work best for you or if there could be any danger in following said care plan or using particular products or treatments as well as discuss any potential risks associated with them.


The evidence in support of massage therapy is strong; it can effectively reduce chronic pain, improve physical and emotional well-being, and have a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system. A therapist skilled in providing massage sessions tailored to address chronic pain can be an invaluable part of any regimen designed to manage difficult healthcare conditions. Patients dealing with a range of chronic conditions report beneficial effects from this therapy-based approach.

However, massage therapy is not without limitations as no one modality solves all issues. Research indicates that combining elements such as tender points (trigger points) and mindfulness meditation may be a useful addition for long term success in managing chronic pain. In addition to treatments provided by a massage therapist, other treatments such as physical therapy or exercise may work synergistically with the therapeutic effects from massage. To fully reduce the symptoms of chronic pain, it’s recommended that the individual seeks multiple forms of care from qualified practitioners who have specialized knowledge and experience in treating chronic conditions.

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