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Can you avoid surgery using massage therapy?

When you are asking if surgery can be avoided using massage therapy it helps to ask a slightly better question. Is my particular injury or pathology a good candidate for trying massage therapy first? As we get into this subject, it is important to keep in mind we always recommend you follow your doctor’s advice in regard to your specific situation. 

There are several very common pathologies we have great success treating with medical massage. Some of the most common are carpal tunnel, trigger finger, temporomandibular joint disorder, Ménière’s disease, numbness and/or tingling in the hands, feet, or arms, sciatica, vertigo, and bulging or herniated disc pain. The thing each of these issues has in common are that many of them can, but not always, have a neuromuscular origin. What this means is many of these can be impacted by direct soft tissue work. 

One of the more common examples is the case of a bulging or herniated disc in the spine. Often times a person will go in to a chiropractor with low back pain and the doctor will take an x-ray of the spine determining that there is a disc bulge or herniation. In most cases surgery won’t be necessary, but the chiropractor will recommend frequent adjustments to attempt to bring balance back to that area and give the individual some relief. Sometimes massage is recommended by the chiropractor as well. At times the pain is so extreme, the individual will be referred to a surgeon to have them take a look. In the case of a bulging or herniated desk, we often have success in greatly reducing or eliminating pain altogether. In some cases, we greatly reduce the pain but it is still present and the surgery is still necessary. Sometimes clients will choose to put the surgery off until they are in a different place in their career or life. There are many different reasons for a person to delay getting a surgery as long as they can but it is the clients choice. We are here to support you in whatever healthcare decisions you make, but will always encourage you to heed your doctor’s advice.

In the case of numbness and tingling, especially if these sensations are not on both sides of the body at the same time. We often have excellent success rates in treating these symptoms. More often than not they will resolve completely. The question becomes where the impingement is that is causing the symptom. If the impingement is in the thoracic outlet, brachial plexus, at the elbow, or the wrist, or in the neck , then the issue can be treated with soft tissue work. If the symptoms do not resolve after massage, it is likely because the impingement is at the spine and will need a doctors attention to determine which direction to go as far as treatment.

In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery is successful about 50% of the time. So this is a pathology that we highly recommend a person try medical massage first, because often the symptoms can be relieved by releasing the associated muscles in the arm. In the case of carpal tunnel, we usually release from neck to fingertips on the affected side.

In some cases of trigger finger, surgery is necessary but again we have great success in treating clients suffering from this issue. In fact, it doesn’t typically take more than 1 to 3 sessions to get full use back. So if your doctor approves, you may want to try therapeutic massage for trigger finger first.

For vertigo and clients with Ménière’s disease specifically, massage therapy can help but results do vary and the number of sessions before full resolution also varies. It’s definitely worth a try as massage is typically the least expensive and least invasive option for treating any of these issues. 

If you are unsure, if massage can help you, please give us a call or send us a message, and we will be happy to talk to you about your specific situation!

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