Importance of Unveiling the Mystery of Pain for Massage Therapists

July 26, 2019
Ryan Barichello

Firstly, what is pain?

Pain is an unpleasant sensation and emotional experience linked to tissue damage. Its purpose is to allow the body to react and prevent further tissue damage.


While this feeling is the body's way of alerting your brain that there is a problem, it can go on for weeks, months, or longer. Pain becomes a part of your very existence. At that point, pain becomes not only a symptom but the disease itself.


Massage therapy & pain management


A massage therapist’s typical day often involves seeing clients who present with a wide variety of complaints, from plantar fasciitis to tension-type headaches. Massage is also a popular treatment for low back pain, neck pain, and tension headaches. 


Therapeutic massage may relieve pain by way of several mechanisms, including relaxing painful muscles, tendons, and joints; relieving stress and anxiety; and possibly helping to "close the pain gate" by stimulating competing nerve fibers and impeding pain messages to and from the brain.


The mystery of pain


As the science of pain continues to emerge, it is very clear that what we call pain is a highly complex subject. Here we are referring to the mystery of pain, rather than solving the puzzle of pain. 


Massage is uniquely positioned to address Pain on many levels.


Physiologically, massage can

trigger the relaxation response and activate rest and repose

increase circulation of blood and lymph for more rapid healing of muscle and connective tissue

inhibit negative nerve responses and highlight positive sensations - clarifying the body map


Touch is a social, and emotional and spiritual connection that can

reduce stress

convey acceptance and belonging ("you are not alone")

decrease anxiety and depression

increase happiness (if you make someone happier, they are in less Pain)


Kinesthetically, massage can individuate muscles so that they work more efficiently and not stuck together as a unit working against itself.


Patients in Pain want answers to questions

What is wrong?

How long will it take?

What can I do? (Self-care suggestions)

What can you do?


When patients view pain from the puzzle perspective, they often feel like someone else holds the key to solving their problem. When the patient understands pain as multifactorial, that also means there are many fronts on which to make a difference. This gives the client a sense of empowerment, a sense there are things they can do now to make a difference in the way they feel. That alone is powerful medicine.


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Verified by Nick Gabriele.