The Impact of Massage Therapy on Pain Management

pain management, massage therapy

While some view massage therapy simply as a form of relaxation, others find it to be a crucial form of pain management. Many do not realize that massage therapy is an ideal method of alternative pain relief, especially when compared to taking strong prescription painkillers that could have serious side effects. 

Massage for pain relief has been the focus of a lot of research over the years. The results are in, and massage has been recognized as a legitimate pain management therapy. You can feel good about treating yourself to a massage knowing that it brings real healing.

According to a report by the CDC, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from chronic pain of some sort, and chronic pain is one of the most complicated conditions to treat. It has physical, emotional, and psychological components, which calls for a multimodal approach to treatment.

What is Massage Therapy?

The term “massage therapy” encompasses many different massage techniques. During a massage therapy session, a massage therapist applies gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. Generally, that means to press, rub, and manipulate the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It may just be light stroking to deep pressure on the muscles that help soften the tissue within your body.

What Types of Massage Therapy are Available for Pain Management?

Depending on the level of pain you wish to manage your massage specialist can suggest which massage therapy type would be best for your needs. There are four common types which include:  

  • Swedish massage, 
  • Deep tissue massage, 
  • Sports massage, and
  • trigger point massage. 

The Swedish uses long strokes, kneading, deep, circular movements, vibration, and tapping to help relax and energize the individual. At the same time, Deep massage uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. The sports massage is for athletes to help prevent or treat injuries your body can face with athletic activities.

What Types of Pain Can Massage Therapy Help Handle?

Massage therapy is effective in relieving pain associated with many conditions, including but not limited to low-back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis pain, anxiety, and depression. Not only does massage relieve the pain and reduce disability associated with these conditions, but it also improves the quality of life and eases some of the psychological and emotional products of pain.

Chronic Pain 

Massage therapy can help to decrease your chronic pain. Pain can arise for a variety of reasons throughout your body. Common causes of pain include injury, trauma, or muscle overuse. Pain occurs when receptors within your skin detect something isn’t right. The receptors will then send a signal to your brain where it is then passed on to nerves. Nerves are what create a feeling of pain in your body. A pain management massage aims to reduce pain by increasing healing and disturbing the pain signals sent to the brain. 

Low-Back Pain

Massage therapy can provide substantial healing and pain relief for many lower back problems in your body. Specifically, for pain caused by a back strain, when the correct muscle is targeted, the pain can be controlled at its source—for quicker and lasting pain relief.


Massage therapy can reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain, joint rigidity, intense fatigue, headache, and muscle spasms. A study found that massage therapy helps people with fibromyalgia to feel more relaxed and assist with tender point pain.


Massage therapy can help relieve pain and ease your muscle stiffness associated with arthritis. Massage techniques can be used to improve your circulation and help to reduce your inflammation. These pain management massage techniques translate to enhancing your blood flow to arthritic joints, improving your movement, and reducing your pain over time. 

Anxiety and Depression

Massage also can reduce anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Massage therapy helps decrease stress, wipe out depression, and improve fatigue. Studies show that the presence of depression is often triggered by active and chronic pain. Depression alone leads to muscle tension and pain, which can be very painful to live with daily.

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Pain Management

Massage therapy plays an important role in pain management. Commonly, it treats a variety of health conditions. It also provides a positive result for people with chronic pain. 

Increase Range of Movement 

​​Massage therapy for relieving pain can reduce your muscle tension by encouraging relaxation and increasing your range of movement. During a massage, your muscle temperature increases due to an increase in blood flow. When your muscle temperature increases, the elasticity, and flexibility of tissues increase, and your muscles are able to loosen and stretch. When your muscles loosen and stretch, relaxation increases, reducing tension. An increase in tissue elasticity and flexibility —  improves your range of movement to help further reduce a build-up of tension. Reducing tension by improving your range of movement and increasing relaxation also helps to decrease pain.


A massage aims to reduce stress by encouraging the relaxation of muscles and reducing cortisol levels. Relaxation is increased due to an increase in muscle temperature. Increasing muscle temperature allows muscles to relax by increasing tissue elasticity. Increasing relaxation decreases the physical symptoms of stress. A massage stimulates the production and release of feel-good hormones. Feel-good hormones include endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. Feel-good hormones are responsible for increasing mental relaxation providing a sense of well-being whilst also reducing stress. Feel-good hormones replace cortisol to help further reduce stress.

Relieve Tight Muscles

Muscle tightness is relieved through massage therapy for chronic pain. Your muscle tightness increases when you suffer from chronic pain. Muscle tightness occurs to restrict any excess movements that could cause pain to increase or damage to worsen. However, your muscle tightness itself increases pain. Massage therapy for pain management aims to reduce your muscle tightness by increasing blood flow in order to improve your tissue elasticity. Blood flow is increased during a massage due to friction created between skin and fingers. Your blood flow is used to raise muscle temperature. Tissue elasticity improves when your muscle temperature rises, allowing muscles to relax and tightness to reduce. Relaxation of your muscles reduces restriction and therefore pain.

Overcome Your Chronic Pain with Massage Therapy in Boulder or Longmont Today

Whether you are an athlete, suffering from arthritis, seek pain management, or just want help relieving anxiety or depression, there are many benefits to working with an experienced Colorado massage therapist at Optimal Wellness. 

Learn more about the benefits of massage for pain management and other therapies to promote better overall wellness at our two Colorado massage locations in Boulder and Longmont. At Optimal Wellness, we offer a variety of services to help you perform better and improve your quality of life. Learn more about our wellness services on our website or book your appointment with our skilled Colorado massage therapist to get on the road to optimal wellness.

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