October 26, 2020

How does massage therapy and acupuncture help manage pain?

Reviewed by the Transitional Pain Service team at the Toronto General Hospital
The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Chronic pain can be physically and psychologically difficult to manage, and it can certainly take its toll on you and your loved ones. You may find it difficult to carry out your day-to-day activities and engage in social interactions. Although there are many ways that people cope with pain, you should choose to focus on treatments that have been proven time and again to work, and can provide you with the results you need.

Over the counter and prescription pain medications can help you manage the pain, but they aren't the only things you can depend on for pain management. Instead of focusing on the pain you are feeling right now, you can choose to find effective ways to cope by engaging in activities that can relax and calm the mind. You might not be able to avoid pain, but you don't have to allow it to take over your life.

Massage therapy and acupuncture are just some of the techniques that have proven to be effective at alleviating pain.
Benefits of massage therapy
There are many medical conditions that can be addressed with massage therapy such as acute post-surgical pain, neuropathic pain, back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, and arthritis. Here are some of the benefits you will get out of a massage session:
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Increases blood flow and circulation
  • Improves the body's range of motion
  • Lowers anxiety levels and improves the overall mood
  • Increases the level of neurotransmitters that reduce depression
  • Increases the level of endorphins, which is the body's naturally-occurring pain reliever
Types of massage therapy
Massage therapy is the process of using the hands and fingers to manipulate the muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues of the body. A trained therapist will do the massage by stroking, rubbing and manipulating certain body parts to address any problems. The pressure applied will vary (light, moderate, and hard).

It is worth remembering that a massage does not have to be painful in order to be effective; in fact, a lighter and more relaxing massage may prove to be more beneficial for some people than a hard one. Before the session starts, make sure to inform your therapist that you are seeking relief from chronic pain so that he or she can customize the massage according to your special needs. Here are the most common massages that can help you deal with pain:
Medication for Neuropathic pain treatment
  • 1
    Swedish massage
    Swedish massage is the most commonly used form of massage. It involves kneading strokes, circular movements, and friction techniques that are both relaxing and energizing. This therapy is used to release sore and tense muscles. This is a great choice for beginners to massage therapy.
  • 2
    Trigger point massage
    This type of massage is applied to the tender points of your body. The slow strokes are applied across the grain of the muscle to address any knotted muscles. This is best for those suffering from sciatica, headaches, migraines, and lower back strain.
  • 3
    Sport massage
    This massage is designed specifically for active people. It makes use of a variety of stokes to help sports athletes deal with their injuries. It also promotes flexibility to prevent an athlete from getting injured while playing or practicing their sport.
  • 4
    Neuromuscular therapy massage
    This massage makes use of very targeted compression and friction techniques to solve problems caused by repetitive injuries.
  • 5
    Deep tissue massage
    This massage employs slow, deep, and deliberate strokes to relieve muscle tension. This is definitely not for everyone because the therapist will delve into the deeper layer of muscles, which could prove to be painful for some. You need to speak up from the massage table once the massage becomes too painful to bear. You can also expect soreness a day or two after this massage. Deep tissue is best for people with chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, and back
How acupuncture helps you deal with pain
Acupuncture is a major branch of the traditional Chinese healing arts. The Chinese prescribes to the philosophy that the world is divided between two opposing life forces: the yin and yang. When these two forces are in balance, the body is healthy and natural energy (chi) is achieved. If chi does not flow freely throughout the body, this can cause illness and pain.

According to the Chinese, acupuncture helps release chi in the body. The process involves the insertion of extremely fine needles to specific anatomical points of the body called acupuncture points. Pressure, heat, and electrical stimulation may also be included to further enhance the experience.

This treatment helps to relieve the pain by stimulating connective tissues and muscle fibers to self-repair. The process also stimulates sensory nerves that will release endorphins to help deal with the pain. Because of its many benefits, acupuncture is highly recommended to those suffering from chronic pain, muscle strain, and repetitive stress injuries.
The importance of pain management
Remember that pain is always subjective and should be defined by the person actually experiencing it. Inadequately managed pain can lead to frustration and helplessness, which can then lead to depression. Pain does not have to be tolerated, and there are many options available to treat it aside from conventional medicine.

Proper pain management can be achieved using one or a variety of treatment options. Employing treatments such as massage therapy and acupuncture will allow you to lessen your pain, increase your mobility, and resume your normal activities. Before starting any of these treatments, it is important that you talk to your doctor first to ensure it will not interfere with your current treatment plan.