Research shows that persistent or chronic post-surgical pain lasting from two to three months is responsible for close to one in four cases of chronic pain. Being in pain has powerful effects on patients’ psychosocial and economic wellbeing, and it is considered a major public health issue across the globe.
Of the many natural means used to combat pain during rehabilitation post-surgery or post-injury, one of the most effective is massage. Various studies have shown that massage has many physical and mental benefits, ranging from pain relief to improved lymphatic drainage—but choosing the right type of massage is vital if you really want to hit your mark.
Doctors frequently recommend massage during rehabilitation owing to its effects on the skin and its ability to reduce pain, relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, increase joint mobility and flexibility, maintain connective tissue pliability and mobility, boost immune system function, and more.
In cancer patients, massage has been found to induce a relaxation response; reduce pain, tiredness, and tension; and lower respiratory and heart rates. Although the precise mechanism that leads to pain reduction is unknown, researchers believe that it has something to do with the effect of massage on the production of endorphins—a type of “feel-good” brain chemical that lowers pain perception. Another theory is that massage stimulates large nerve fibres that block pain, closing off the impulse from small pain fibres and reducing the overall level of perceived pain.
There are various massage techniques used to reduce pain. These include classic western massage (featuring gentle, light pressure), myofascial release (which aims to eliminate the block between the conscious and unconscious mind), Swedish massage (featuring long strokes, kneading, and friction), shiatsu (which aims to balance yin and yang) and the Pfrimmer Method (which utilises deep muscle therapy).
Lymphatic drainage techniques, meanwhile, are used to remove lymph to an area with working lymph vessels. In some cases, therapy-given massage is backed by massage gun therapy. The latter is used to tackle problems like muscle soreness and tightness, and to help improve blood flow.
A review of existing studies on massage and pain, published in the journal, Pain Medicine, founded that massage therapy is strongly recommended as a pain management option. The review concluded that massage can reduce pain, improve mood and quality of life, and ameliorate stress. The researchers concluded that pain is multi-dimensional and best approached through a holistic, biopsychosocial approach.
The biopsychosocial model was first developed by George Engel, who suggested that to understand a person’s medical condition, it was insufficient to take biological factors into account simply. Rather, psychological and social factors (including thoughts, emotions, socio-economical, and cultural factors) should also be prioritized if authentic wellbeing is to be achieved.
Incorporating massage therapy into the rehabilitation process helps tackle pain and discomfort from a biopsychological standpoint, and can make a big difference to pain, mobility, and tension. Massage efficiently tackles stress, helping patients focus on healing and staying positive.
Many massage techniques can be used during rehabilitation, so if you are recovering from an injury, accident, or surgical intervention, ask your doctor about which technique is appropriate. Tackle pain from a wider perspective, prioritizing your mental and emotional health and your physical wellbeing.
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