Chronic Vs. Acute Pain: How does massage address both? 

One of the most common reasons to seek out massage therapy is for pain purposes. Do you know there are two different kinds of pain that affect your body’s response systems? Chronic pain and acute pain are the two types. Massage therapy is known to be an impactful tool to address both types. What are the differences though and how does massage address each separately? 

Before we can discuss how massage is utilized, it can be helpful to know what is the difference. Acute pain is the result of an injury or strain that causes discomfort or pain in the body for three months or less. Acute is a term applied to something that takes place for a short period of time with relief and full healing being possible. The other end of the spectrum is chronic pain. This type of pain affects one or more parts of the body lasting in duration for more than three months and results in significant emotional issues as well as loss of optimal body function. While acute pain is unsettling to our life routines and ability to tolerate, it usually resolves itself relatively quickly and with consistent attention, especially within the first few weeks to a month directly following the incident resulting in the pain. 

When the person experiences chronic pain, its impact on other areas of our lives such as emotionally, mentally, and energetically is more pronounced than acute situations. Our nervous system’s ability to be under assault from chronic pain patterns leaves us vulnerable after prolonged exposure. This exposure has taxing consequences on other areas of our lives both inside our body and externally as well. Things like our finances, our jobs, our relationships, and yes even our joy in living life can take direct hits from situations involving chronic pain. In both scenarios, massage therapy can be an effective treatment course. 

When I work with clients, it is important to take a detailed intake of their medical history, their work routines, and their daily activities. Also asking questions about how long the issue has been going on and what if anything brings any temporary or lasting relief of the pain. These answers help me determine my course of action- the treatment plan. Using my skills as a therapist, I determine how to proceed. Taking time to consider all the client shares in the assessment process helps me best navigate the course of action. 

For example, if someone is experiencing acute pain in their arm or calf, then using deep tissue massage techniques in these areas would be inadvisable. It could cause more inflammation and prevent the reduction of the pain symptoms. While doing these deep

techniques above and below the areas of greatest pain can bring relief by default to the injured area. In contrast, someone having chronic pain usually has a higher pain tolerance level so the deep tissue techniques can indeed be beneficial to this type of case. It just depends on the individual and how their body responds to different pressures. The key is to communicate effectively with the client before, during and after their treatment sessions to determine the tolerance level of the body response. 

Each client will be different in terms of their tolerance to pressure, their symptoms and range of pain levels, and also how their lifestyle influences the pain. Pain management is also something to consider. For some, taking things like Tylenol, Advil, and other pain-relieving medications is part of their self care. Others wish to avoid these substances and only do things like massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. So taking all the variances into consideration when developing a treatment protocol with your client’s input and consent is vital. It is my intention to partner with clients to walk the path of wellcare with them, not for them. 

It is their body, therefore their responsibility to take part in the treatments both on the table and between sessions. I want and encourage clients to ask questions, give consistent and truthful feedback about pressure, post-session results, and follow up session expectations. This communication allows for the best possible outcome. In return, I offer treatment suggestions, varying techniques when called for, and communication about the expected amount of time to regain full use of the injured area. Above all, I maintain professionalism and stay within my scope of practice. This means I refer out when necessary for diagnoses that I am not qualified to make. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing acute or chronic pain, I would welcome the opportunity to partner with you on a wellcare path at SIWC and show you how massage therapy can impact your pain…Maybe even cure the root of the pain problem! Call today to find out more.

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