You're in pain. The last trip to the doctor was uneventful, and he or she sent you home with painkillers that didn't take care of the problem. You have a friend that swears that massage worked for her tough pains. Another friend claims that chiropractic worked wonders on his low back pain. Choosing between the two, you realize you don't really know much about massage or chiropractic. Isn't massage all about pampering and relaxation? Isn't chiropractic all about getting your back "cracked"? Why would you even want to try either treatment for your pain? Read on to find out.
Massage does serve several functions for the human body. It is the manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques, to enhance function, aid in the healing process, decrease muscle reflex activity, inhibit motor-neuron excitability, and promote relaxation and well-being. Sounds like a lot right? That's because it is. Massage isn't all about the pampering spa treatments you may have heard about. There is several modalities in massage designed to make you feel better such as neuromuscular, trigger point, reflexology, sports massage, and myofascial release to name a few.
When performing massage, some therapists will work specifically over trigger points, which everyone else refers to as "muscle knots". Trigger points are nodules in tight bands of muscle fiber. They can be quite painful where they are on the body or they can refer pain to other areas. For example, you can have pain and numbness in your wrist and hand from a trigger point in a muscle deep to your shoulder. Many massage therapists will work on these trigger points by static compression or short specific massage strokes to these areas that cause pain. Fun Fact: Did you know that 80% of pain in the body comes from these trigger points? That is why Massage can really make a difference in your pain recovery!
While massage therapists strictly deal with soft tissue manipulation (we like our muscles), chiropractors work more with structure and bone alignment. To be more specific, it is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.
Chiropractors will use several different treatments to make you feel better. There is the traditional adjustment where a chiropractor will adjust the spine in certain areas to reduce harmful curves causing you your pain. The purpose of adjustment is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become restricted in their movement as a result of a tissue injury. Tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture for an extended period of time (like most people at desk jobs). Chiropractors will use other treatments such as spinal decompression, nerve stimulation, hot/cold therapies, and traction.
Reading this, you're probably still debating what might be the best treatment to try. The answer is to try both! Everyone is unique and will respond to certain treatments differently. Some people will feel better with massage more than chiropractic and vice-versa. Most will achieve the best results by combining massage with their chiropractic adjustments. Why do these two treatments work so well together? Massage will loosen up very tight muscle, which will make it easier for the chiropractor to get the best adjustment possible.
Before trying either treatment for pain, you must ask yourself; "How committed am I to feeling better?" Trying Massage or chiropractic will not be a quick fix to whatever pains you may have. Healing and restoring your body takes time and cannot be resolved overnight. For acute pain, massage therapists generally recommend 1-2 visits per week and chiropractors will recommend 2-3 visits per week. For maintenance (once you're feeling better) massage therapists & chiropractors will recommend 1-2 visits a month.
In many states, Insurance will not reimburse for massage therapy because it is still seen as being part of the service industry. However there is a push in several states for massage therapists to be able to bill insurance. For now, ask your potential therapist whether they take insurance or not. Many chiropractors can take insurance, and will bill insurance for massage therapy conducted in their office. Again, ask what can be covered with your insurance.
Knowing all this, are you prepared to try either treatment? Remember the path to feeling better begins with you. Massage and chiropractic are there to help you along the way to your healing.
Have questions regarding massage or chiropractic? Ask away in the comments below!