How Can Massage Therapy Help with Pain?

 

What makes a person more prone to developing persistent pain? Why is it that the longer pain persists, the less it correlates with actual tissue damage? Exciting new discoveries in neuroscience are changing the way we view the pain experience.

We now understand that pain is a protective output created by the brain’s interpretation of a multitude of inputs including biological, psychological and social information. 

 
 
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Pain =
[credible evidence of danger]
– [credible evidence of safety]

 
 

In any given moment your brain is processing a variety of ‘safety signals’ and ‘danger signals’. These signals include changes in pressure, temperature, and chemical balance, along with signals affected by sights, smells, sounds, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, previous experiences, expectations, cultural influences, social interactions and more. 

Pain serves to encourage a person to focus on protecting and healing, but what happens when pain lasts longer than the normal timeframe for tissue healing? This can occur when the body’s alarm system remains on high alert and is stimulated by a lower intensity stimulus than before. The good news is that the brain’s ability to change means that it is possible to retrain the nervous system in positive new directions.

The Role of Massage Therapy

Massage and movement can inhibit the influence of ‘danger signals’ in a person’s nervous system.

At Intent Health Clinic we employ a variety of approaches with this in mind:

  • We provide a quiet, predictable and comfortable treatment space
  • Our treatments and homecare suggestions involve techniques that aim to calm the nervous system
  • We encourage healthy sleep and relaxation practices, as well as graded exposure to movement
  • We provide pain education. Studies show that learning about the neurophysiology of pain decreases perceived threat levels to the nervous system which can result in decreased pain levels
  • We connect you with resources like the Protectometer App: a useful tool that helps people identify potential ‘danger signals’ and ‘safety signals’ in their life, and encourages the novel combination of ‘safe inputs’ to retrain the nervous system

 

Adapted from the article: Sharman, Jenn. “Reconceptualising Pain.” RMT Matters. July 2017 vol. 10 no. 2. pp.14-15. https://www.rmtbc.ca/sites/default/files/RMT.Matters.Magazine.Summer2017-FINAL-interactive_0.pdf Accessed 1 Sep 2017.