WE’VE ALL EXPERIENCED PAIN at one time or another. But unless you live with chronic pain, it’s tough to understand how severely it can infringe on your quality of life.
Massage therapy is one of the many treatments available for chronic pain. Diana L. Thompson, a licensed massage practitioner and president of the Massage Therapy Foundation, has seen firsthand how massage therapy can help people with chronic pain.
She participated in a study of various treatments for lower-back pain, including massage therapy. “With massage therapy, we were able to see positive results after as few as eight massage sessions,” Thompson says. “And the relief continued for up to a year after the participants stopped receiving the massages.”
Another benefit of massage therapy, Thompson points out, is the education massage therapists can provide during a series of sessions. “We can help people retrain their thinking so they can establish a better relationship with their own body,” she explains. “Then they can make decisions about how to take care of themselves, such as knowing when it’s time for a massage, or to use an ice pack, or to do some stretching exercises or just take a break.”
Lower-back pain and neck pain are among the most common types of chronic pain, but massage therapy can be beneficial for many other issues (see “Helping Hands”). If you suffer from chronic pain, be sure to tell your massage therapist about your condition. Share as much information as you can about how the pain is affecting your life, including specific activities you’re having trouble with or avoiding because of pain.
“Really think about the results of massage in terms of your ability to participate more in your own life,” Thompson says. “We might not be able to get rid of the pain completely, but we can help you be much more functional and comfortable in your daily life.”
—By Amy Lynn Smith