Almost every client I see experiences relief from pain as a result of the massage. Whether the pain is resolved or eased, it means they can again engage with daily life and get a break from the ache of chronic pain.
One particularly interesting case shows very clearly how the mind creates pain in the body. Anne had injured her right shoulder many years ago and came to me with pain in the same shoulder. She was very worried in case she had aggravated the old issue and was in some distress. She wasn’t able to sleep without the use of painkillers.
Before the session, I wondered how much I would be able to help and thought it would probably take a few sessions to resolve. However, during the massage, it became clear that she was holding herself very tightly and that her worry over the old injury was creating a great deal of pain that the physical reality didn’t match.
After the session her shoulder felt easier and she slept well that night, without painkillers. The next day, the pain was gone and hasn’t returned in 6 months.
Dawn came to see me with right shoulder and neck pain. After her first 2 sessions, the shoulder pain had gone and hasn’t returned since. The neck pain, however, has been more persistent. Over the course of 6 months, through regular sessions and diligently practised aftercare, we have seen a significant shift.
This work is still ongoing, but the range of movement in the neck is better than she has known it for years. She has good days and bad days and still experiences neck pain at times but is heading in the right direction.
*Client names changed
Scientific research on massage and pain relief
Compared to no treatment, massage therapy should be strongly recommended as a pain management option. Massage can have the effect of reducing pain and improving mood, reducing anxiety, and improving health-related quality of life (Crawford et al meta analysis 2016).
Massage reduces the intensity and severity of musculoskeletal pain and it reduces pain generally, measured by patient perception (Crawford et al meta analysis 2016).
Massage is recommended by the National Institute for Care Excellence as one element of treatment for lower back pain: "Consider manual therapy (spinal manipulation, mobilisation or soft tissue techniques such as massage) for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, but only as part of a treatment package including exercise" (NICE Guidelines on treating lower back pain in over 16s, 2016).
*Thanks to the Massage Training Institute for these research summaries.