Massage Therapy for Neck Pain
For centuries massage has been used as a key tool in alleviating chronic and acute pain, including neck pain, inducing relaxation, and loosening tight and fatigued muscles so as to reduce stress and tension in the body. Neck pain remains the most common reason for people to seek massage therapy today (Sherman, et al, 2005). Massage is also a helpful therapy for activating the endogenous inhibitory pain system, and we now have an increasing level of understanding as to how massage works as it affects the body’s physiological responses to pain. Effects on stress hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline have been observed, and the release of the so-called ‘love hormone’ oxytocin during massage is now thought to be responsible, in part, for the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect of massage.
Unfortunately, due to massage therapy being viewed somewhat sceptically by orthodox science for a number of years, despite its long history of empirical evidence showing success, properly controlled research trials into the treatment are few and far between. Those that have been carried out are often too small to have any power, or are guilty of poor methodology with little description of the techniques used and, therefore, an inability to be replicated or verified. This means that the use of massage therapy as a potent therapeutic technique is still held in low regard by many orthodox physicians despite it being well recognized by the complementary and alternative medicine establishment as an effective promoter of well-being and pain relief.
Massage therapy for neck pain appears effective, and may allow patients to use less medication, and improve their quality of life without surgery. There are risks associated with any therapy, and massage is no different. Patients should be aware of the potential for muscle injury during intense massage, and for complications due to undiagnosed underlying pathologies such as fractures, tumours, torn ligaments, muscles, and damaged joints. A qualified registered massage therapist will verify a patient’s medical history prior to beginning treatment in order to make sure there are no contraindications for therapy. Always check the therapist’s credentials and make sure that any medical conditions and medications are fully disclosed prior to treatment.
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Last Updated: 12/01/2010