Massage vs. Medication: Relieving Pain Alternative

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

wellness-285590_640Chronic pain may be a reality for many individuals due to varying circumstances, such as diseases or health complications, underlying illnesses, accidents and more. Whatever the condition, chronic pain can severely impair a person’s ability to live life independently and on a day-to-day basis.

Dealing with pain may make it difficult for person to do to everyday tasks, such as getting dressed, cooking and eating, maintain hygiene and more.

Medication management can be an important part of coping with pain. However, as with all prescription and over the counter medications, unwanted side effects may be experienced. Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects about using medication to manage pain is the tolerance that is built and the potential for depending or addiction to the drug that is taken. Prescription medications should always be taken with discretion under the supervision of a doctor, who is qualified to monitor use and potential side effects.

Finding Alternative Pain Relief

In some situations, it may be appropriate to explore possible alternative forms of pain relief to help manage symptoms before resorting to medication. Alternative forms of pain relief typically involve little to no risk or side effects and can help restore function and balance to the body In a more holistic manner.

Many forms of alternative pain relief exist, and it may be beneficial to explore a form of pain relief that is most appropriate for you.

Massage Therapy

massage-599476_640One form of pain relief that can easily be integrated into a person’s life is massage therapy. Massage therapy involves work on the soft tissues of the body, which includes connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The purpose of massage therapy is to promote physical and emotional health and well being through relaxation and muscle restoration.

Massage therapy can be helpful in decreasing stress and any related symptoms, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Tension
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Joint pain

What Makes a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapists are licensed practitioners who have completed coursework and supervised practice hours in training. Some massage therapists may be specialized in certain forms of therapy including:

  • Deep tissue massage
  • Sports therapy
  • Hot rock massage
  • Swedish massage therapy
  • Aromatherapy massage
  • Shiatsu massage
  • Thai massage
  • Reflexology
  • Pregnancy massage

Many massage therapists can work on a specified area or whole body depending on your wants and needs. At your first appointment, be sure to discuss the areas of pain you are experiencing with your massage therapist to have an appointment that is tailored to your individualized needs.

Massage therapists frequently work out of private practices, in doctors offices or through a spa, health or wellness center. Massage appointments can vary on length of time, depending on the type of massage you may be having. Massage therapists may used specialized oils or lotion on the skin, so be sure to tell your therapists about any skin allergies or sensitivities beforehand.

Your Experience at Your First Massage

Close up of man with fluYou may initially experience some discomfort during your massage appointment, particularly as a therapist works through deeper muscle layers or areas or the body that are more painful. You may experience soreness after your massage appointment, but this typically improves one to two days after the massage.

Talk with your practitioner about the recommended amount of therapy that may be helpful for managing or relieving your pain. Your massage therapist may be able to recommend a care plan that can help you recover and effectively manage any pain you are experiencing.

Discussing Issues with Your Doctor

As with all things, be sure to discuss any issues or concerns with your medical doctor. Massage therapy can be a helpful form of pain relieve that you can integrate into what you are already doing, or simply something you utilize with flare-ups or as prevention approaches.

Taking the time to get a massage can also be a wonderful form of self-care as you set aside time to relax and unwind. Consider massage therapy as a alternative form of pain relief if appropriate for you.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with massage therapy as a form of natural and alternative pain relief? How has massage therapy help you manage acute or chronic pain and restore balance in your life?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 19th, 2015
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