Massage and Relief of Muscular Pain

Massage and Relief of Muscular Pain

“The Quebec Task force on Spinal Disorders (1987) reported that massage therapy may be the most frequently used therapy for musculoskeletal  disorders and makes particular reference to its usefulness in controlling pain. From the intuitive rubbing of a painful injury to the sophisticated application of massage therapy in the treatment of intractable chronic pain, the effectiveness of massage in pain control is widely recognized.

There are three principle ways in which massage may be expected to relieve pain:  It may act directly on the source of the pain to alleviate nociceptive stimulation; it may act centrally to alter the processing of nociceptive input; or it may affect the conduction of pain impulses in the peripheral nerves.”

A nociceptor is a peripheral nerve organ or mechanism for the reception and transmission of painful  or injurious stimuli. In other words, it is a detector and transmitter of pain impulses.

“Muscle pain can arise from sustained muscle contraction due to decreased blood flow produced by compression of blood vessels within the muscle. Thus the pain associated with sustained muscle contractions is ischemic pain, and can be part of a pain-contraction cycle.”

Ischemic refers to the condition of insufficient blood supply.

“According to Jacobs (1960), the therapeutic effect of massage therapy in such syndromes is concerned with breaking the pain-contraction cycle and thus eliminating the source of pain.

This can be accomplished via the improved circulation that results from mechanical pressure on venous and lymphatic channels, possibly assisted by release of vasodilators like histamine and by reflex dilation of vessels through stimulation of the cutaneous afferents mediating touch and pressure.

Relaxation of the contracted or spastic muscle may result from stimulation of proprioceptors in the muscle, tendon and fascia by stretching and compressive movements.”

Proprioceptors are structures found in muscles, tendons and fascia which detect muscle length and relative position in space and assist in maintaining equilibrium. They are important in informing the organism of excessive tension and other information, so adjustments can be made.

“It is also possible that the effectiveness of massage therapy in treating the trigger points that develop and produce referred pain following injury may also be partly explained in terms of interrupting the pain-contraction cycle.”

This information is taken from “A Physician’s Guide to Therapeutic Massage” by Dr. John Yates, Ph.D.