It’s estimated that more than 100 million US adults suffer from chronic pain conditions. While everyone will experience physical pain at some point in their lives, most cases are temporary. With chronic pain, however, the debilitating pain signals last for long periods at a time, often for weeks, months or even years.
Unfortunately, far too many people treat their pain by masking it with painkillers. Whether it’s ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or prescription drugs, painkillers such as this only mask the pain for a brief period of time. Furthermore, painkillers create unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects like damage to the stomach and liver. A safer and more effective approach to treat chronic pain may come from massage therapy.
One of the most common forms of chronic pain is fibromyalgia, which is believed to affect an estimated 5.8 million Americans. Many doctors recommend massage therapy to patients suffering from this debilitating condition, and while results vary on a case-by-case basis, it has proven highly effective at relieving fibromyalgia pain.
But even if you suffer from a different form of chronic pain, massage therapy may help. In a recent study, researchers found massage therapy to improve patients’ ability to deal with pain, as well as their sleep habits, recovery and emotions and healing.
“This study shows that integration of massage therapy into the acute care setting creates overall positive results in the patient’s ability to deal with the challenging physical and psychological aspects of their health condition,” wrote researchers in the study’s conclusion (source). “The study demonstrated not only significant reduction in pain levels, but also the interrelatedness of pain, relaxation, sleep, emotions, recovery, and finally, the healing process.”
There’s still much we don’t know about the pain-relieving science behind massage therapy, but the general consensus in the medical community is that it does work. Some medical experts attribute the pain-relieving properties of massage to its affect on the body’s hormones. When you get a massage, your body reacts by producing and releasing endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin, all of which may naturally lower your pain signals.
Massage therapy also stimulates blood flow throughout the body, which may further help with pain relief. When blood is able to flow more freely, injuries and conditions can heal faster. This combined with its affect on hormones, make massage a powerful form of treatment for chronic pain.
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