Talk to your doctor about massage

When I was 22 (in about 2002), I picked up a small item from the floor as someone called my name. When I turned my head to see who it was, my neck caught. For a month, I had a stiff neck. Growing up, we never used chiropractic or massage therapy so my first instinct was to go to a walk-in clinic doctor. The doctor briefly assessed me, then told me I had arthritis and needed long term pain medication to treat this condition he presumed would plague me for life. That was that. I was too inexperienced to question him, but the visit literally took 10 minutes and I left thinking I had serious arthritis at 22. I took the medication for months, even though the pain had subsided after just a few days. When the medication was pulled from the market after dangerous side-effects emerged, my pain never returned.

I haven’t had any other issues related to that little injury and I truly believe, knowing what I know now as a massage therapist, that a trip to a good chiropractor coupled with a massage would have managed the pain I experienced at 22 just as effectively as the medication. Fun fact: that experience is one of the reasons I became a massage therapist!

I believe that had I experienced the same kind of injury today, doctors would have responded differently. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012 showed chiropractic care and specific exercise were more effective than NSAIDs or Narcotics for treating neck pain.

For acute or subacute low back pain, one of the most common reasons for physician visits, physicians are changing their tune as well. The American College of Physicians recommends in a 2017 report that physicians FIRST recommend treatment with heat, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, or acupuncture BEFORE resorting to pain medications. For chronic low back pain, physicians are instructed to recommend rehabilitation, spinal manipulation, stress management, exercises like yoga or Tai Chi, in addition to other non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Where does massage therapy fit into the mix? Many studies have shown massage therapy to be an effective treatment for pain, especially low back, neck, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and more. A summary of some of the research is available through the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health. The Touch Research Institute has many studies about massage therapy available online as well. Because more research is always beneficial and because the guidelines for physicians are evolving, you can make a difference.

If you have had positive experience with  massage therapy for pain management, be sure to let your physician know what you are doing. It is always important to let your physician know all of the wellness services you are receiving so they have the whole picture of your treatment. Because some are less familiar with the benefits of massage therapy or see it as “merely” a pampering service, hearing first hand from their patients about the relief they get from massage is helpful in shaping how they might approach others with similar conditions or how they might answer questions for patients who broach the subject of massage for pain relief.

Haven’t tried massage for pain? We’d love to visit with you! Visit our website to learn more about our service and providers, or Book a service with one of our experienced, licensed massage therapists to see if massage therapy could be part of the solution for your own wellness and pain management.

Try massage therapy first for pain!

eastvillagespa-tishaforearmmassageWhen I was 22 (so, awhile ago), I turned my head funny picking a very unlucky penny off the floor.  My neck ached for a couple of weeks so, being right out of college and not having a doctor in my new town, I went to an urgent care clinic for advice. The doctor felt my neck, did some range of motion exercises, and declared that I had arthritis, wrote me a painkiller prescription, and sent me on my way.

Not once did this doctor tell me, an otherwise healthy and active 22 year old woman to consider massage therapy, chiropractic, osteopathic manipulations, or other conservative forms of pain management.  When I did seek out massage on my own and realized how powerful it was, I knew I needed to become a massage therapist to help others.

I’ve been researching the nation’s opioid addiction crisis and wondering why traditional health providers are still not more widely educated on the benefits of conservative measures of pain relief for non-specific pain (i.e. back pain that is not caused by an underlying factor such as cancer) when massage therapy has been proven in multiple studies to be effective in relieving many kinds of pain.  I can almost give the doctor I saw back in 2002 a pass because massage therapy wasn’t as well-researched as it is today, but I feel like with our current information, there are no excuses.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (

  • From 1991-2013, opioid (Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Oxycontin) prescriptions rose from 76 to 207 million.
  • From 1990-2010 overdose deaths from prescription opioids tripled (and were more common than deaths from heroin or cocaine).
  • 14.4% of women are prescribed an opioid drug during pregnancy

eastvillagespa-juliemassagecloseupOver 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, 38 million of those need relief from persistent moderate to severe back pain (  Massage therapy has been proven effective in treatment of non-specific chronic low back pain (The Annals of Internal Medicine).

  • 401 patients between the ages of 20 and 65 who had non-specific chronic low back pain for at least 3 months (rating a minimum of 3 out of 10 on a pain scale) received either general relaxation massage, structural (injury-specific) massage, or traditional medical care for 10 weeks.
  • After results measured at 10 weeks after treatment and 26 weeks after treatment, participants who received massage fared significantly better than those who received traditional medical care without massage.
  • There was no statistical difference between those who received general relaxation massage techniques and those who received structural massage techniques.

Massage Therapy Magazine cites several studies showing the efficacy of massage therapy for various types of pain and proposes that massage therapy can be a major player in helping to combat the opioid addiction epidemic by offering a conservative first line of treatment for pain.

While pain medications including opioids certainly have their place in patient care and are necessary for many people, we need to find a way to educate traditional healthcare providers that conservative treatments like massage therapy are effective. One way to start is by discussing massage therapy with your primary care provider.  Last year, 16% of respondents in the American Massage Therapy Association 2015 industry study indicated that they discussed massage with their physician.  If you have had positive benefits from massage, let them know!  We also need to encourage teaching hospitals and massage therapists to continue to conduct sound research to further share what many people who get massage already know: It works!

Ready to try massage? Click here to book with one of our experienced and licensed therapists.


Massage Industry Fact Sheet 2015: American Massage Therapy Association

Massage Magazine: Can Massage Help Combat the Opioid Epidemic?

National Institute on Drug Abuse

The Annals of Internal Medicine: A Comparison of the Effects of Two Types of Massage on Chronic Low Back Pain. 2011.