Massage Therapy Benefits Those with Chronic Pain

bth_massageMore than 15 percent of the population suffers from chronic pain related to the joints and musculoskeletal system.  Lack of exercise combined with obesity, occupation related physical stress, sports and hobby related injuries and other phenomena contribute to this statistic.  Many people choose massage therapy, often after suffering for a long time and not finding resolution with other treatments.

Chronic pain is a pain sensation that lingers longer than would be expected, versus acute pain from a recent injury.  Chronic pain may start acutely, from an injury for example, and then remain for a disproportionate period of time.  It can then transform into a more diffuse, longer-lasting pain condition.

Most recent research is showing that fibromyalgia pain originates in the muscles (not in the head).  The role of massage is particularly beneficial for this condition.  Those with chronic fatigue syndrome also frequently experience debilitating, body-wide pain.

Chronic pain complaints may develop either from or into an interactive process involving metabolic factors, such as food or allergies; psychological stressors; chemical or environmental impacts; or any number of sensory system irritants.  This produces an overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system – the system in “high-gear” during the fight-or-flight response.  Prolonged, excess sympathetic system activity can generate  pain in various regions of the body.  Factors that become perpetuating include insomnia, poor sleep, lack of exercise or movement, fatigue, and psychological stress and depression.

According to Rolfing and Feldenkrais practitioner Robert Schleip, “our body’s richest sensory organ is not the nose, ears, eyes, or mouth – but rather the myofascial system”.  With the largest amount of sensory information coming in to the central nervous system through the myofascial tissues, massage therapists have a great opportunity to decrease the barrage of nervous system input from pain receptors.

By addressing different areas of the body, soft-tissue therapists can change the entire sensorimotor experience for the individual.  Massage therapy is an intervention that reduces the noxious input from the myofascial tissues.  By decreasing this input and reducing the sensitivity of the neural pain receptors, massage therapy is able to break the perpetual cycle of pain.

Chronic pain may also involve trigger points.  These are areas of tissue with ischemia and lactic acid build up.  Trigger points can create local nerve fiber impairment or aggravation, leading to increased pain.  Many times, soft-tissue pain is not produced by a local tissue, but is referred from some other location.  Therapists recognize the characteristics of referred pain sensation and adapt their therapy accordingly.

Massage is beneficial in improving sleep, reducing anxiety and stress levels.  For many, finding relief through skillful soft-tissue therapy can be a life-changing experience.  Call the office and book your massage today!  802-655-0354

Chiropractic Economics, The Soft-tissue Solution, Whitney Lowe, September 21, 2011, pg. 76

Benefits of Stretching

Stretching is not just for athletes.  The following are some of the reasons why stretching may be beneficial for YOU!

1. Increase your range of motion.   Stretching helps to warm up muscles and joints. Synovial fluid is released from the cartilage within the joints, lubricating them and keeping bones moving freely.  Elongation of muscles and tendons becomes even more important as we age as our range of motion can become quite restricted along with loss of joint flexibility.  Getting into a stretching routine will help keep us strong and flexible.

2. Injury prevention.  Stretching will help us become stronger and more flexible in performing a variety of physical activities, including household chores.  Stretching affects the viscoelastic behavior of muscle and tendon. (Viscoelasticity refers to the ability to exhibit a change in length as well as amount of flow and movement).  Flexible muscles are able to distribute strength, increased balance and use less energy in the process.

3. Reduce muscle tension. Stretching is helpful in getting blood flowing into the muscles and joints.  This improves movement, circulation, promotes lower blood pressure and lessens fatigue.  Mentally, the relaxing signals sent to the brain during stretching are carried on for several hours after the exercise.

Tips when stretching:

  • Focus on major muscle groups.  Neck, shoulders, low back, hips, thighs, hamstrings, calves.  Stretch both sides (right and left) equally.
  • Slow and steady.  Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, breathing with each stretch.  Inhale during rest and exhale while doing work.   Don’t bounce.  Bouncing can cause small tears in the muscle, tendons or ligaments leaving scar tissue as it heals.  This will actually make you less flexible over time.
  • Be consistent.  You can achieve the greatest benefits by stretching regularly, at least 3 times a week.  Stretching should feel good, increasing your flexibility with gentle tension.

Beginner Gluteal Stretches – Single Knee to Opposite Chest:  Begin by lying on back, with both knees bent.  Take a breath in and as you exhale bring right knee towards the left side of your chest, grab with both hands and pull towards chest to hold for 20 seconds. Repeat for the left side.


Figure Four:  Lying on your back, place your right foot on your left knee. Take a breath in, and as you exhale bring your left knee towards the left side of your chest and hold with both hands under your left knee for 20 sec.  Repeat other side.


Rock the Baby: Seated exercise, begin by lifting one leg up and grabbing under the knee and ankle.  Stretch for 5-10 seconds and then move leg across your body for another 5-10 second stretch. Remember to breathe!       


Lying Knee Extension:  Lying on your back, take a breath in and as you exhale bring one leg towards your chest, grab behind knee (or use a towel to wrap behind your leg) and bring leg toward chest.  This can be done lying in a doorway, with one leg resting on the doorframe. Hold for 30 seconds, breathe!

B6 B7

Dick, F. Sports Training Principles. London, A & C Black. 1997

Lipowitz, Alan J.  Synovial Fluid Chapter 86 Stretching:  Focus on flexibility, accessed 3/12/13 New Insight Into Joint Lubrication That Keeps Osteoarthritis At Bay

Article Date: 02 Apr 2006 – 5:00 PDT

National Strength & Conditioning Association Human Kinetics. 2002  Champaign, IL Essentials of strength training and conditioning,2nd ed

Joint cracking and popping: Understanding noises that accompany articular release Marina G. Protapapas, DO, Tyler C. Cymet, DO

Shrier, Ian.  Does stretching help prevent injuries?  Blackwell Publishing 12/26/2006, page 36