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Treating Severe Pain Issues With Massage

Oftentimes someone has a severe pain issue with an unknown first cause. They don’t know where it came from. We often get asked if we can treat it or if therapeutic massage is even a good place to start.

Let’s start by defining what we consider to be severe pain. This would be the kind of pain that wakes you up at night or prevents you from falling asleep. Pain that requires you to significantly alter how you would normally perform a basic task. This could mean having to sleep in a recliner or changing how you sit and work during the day. It could mean performing right handed tasks left handed. Pain like this often prevents a person from doing usually individual tasks without assistance. This is severe pain. 

Soft tissue dysfunction and injury can cause severe pain like this. It’s not always a fracture, tear, bone spur, or structural issue. Sometimes it is. When people start seeking treatment with massage first, we often don’t have images from a doctor or a provisional diagnosis. This is where we begin asking questions to determine how to move forward with care and concern for what may be causing the issue. The more info we can gather, the better we can tackle the issue. Our goal is to get the maximum amount of relief in the limited time we have together. 

The best therapeutic massage practice practitioners understand the limits of what they can do. Soft tissue problems need soft tissue answers. If the underlying cause of a client’s severe pain is a structural issue, you need a structural solution. The reason massage therapy is a great place to start is that it is usually the least expensive and least invasive approach. If symptoms don’t start to diminish significantly after a couple sessions or if the symptoms are temporarily made worse, there is definitely an underlying issue and it’s time to see your doctor if you haven’t already. Massage is a good place to start but it’s important to understand it may only be a part of the solution. 

How do we know if massage is going to be a path to recovery with severe pain? In short, we just have to try. Most of the time given a specific list of symptoms, your therapist will know whether or not the treatment will help. With severe pain that came on suddenly, the treatment will be the test to determine whether or not an underlying issue is suspected. 

For example, someone with debilitating hip and glute pain comes in for therapeutic massage. During treatment, the therapist may choose to use neuromuscular therapy. If deeply working the area causes above average levels of sustained pain, this is evidence of a deeper issue. If holding pressure on a specific point doesn’t lead to relief and causes the same or more pain, there is likely something more to the story. If we find these things, we stop direct work in the area and move to more relaxing work to ease discomfort and get the client to a more comfortable state than when they came in. 

If this happens during a session we always recommend reaching out to your doctor or specialist and getting some images. We can’t proceed until we know more and advise you to ask your doctor if massage is appropriate. 

Once you get results from your doctor, share them with your therapist and we can discuss your treatment plan going forward. We want to be a part of your care team and support your recovery. 

As always, if you’re unsure whether massage is a good option for a specific issue feel free to give us a call!

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