What Is Chronic Pain & How Massage Therapy Can Help

Studies show that 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from chronic pain and that 50% of those people have lived with it for at least 10 years (1). But what exactly is chronic pain and how can you manage it? 

What is Chronic Pain and Chronic Pain Syndrome? 

Chronic pain is consistent or recurrent pain lasting longer than 3 months, despite the administration of treatments and medications. Chronic Pain Syndrome (CPS) is what occurs when there are more symptoms in addition to  pain such as anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, and elevated stress levels (2). Symptoms can significantly interfere with activities of daily living (ADL’s) and quality of life.  Finding the right treatment for CPS can be difficult. Massage therapy is well-known both anecdotally and within the scientific literature to significantly help with treating both chronic pain and chronic pain syndrome.

Causes of Chronic Pain and Chronic Pain Syndrome 

The direct cause of chronic pain and CPS is unknown though it is often the result of an initial injury or underlying medical condition. There are a number of conditions that are commonly associated with CPS such as; arthritis, cancer, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and lyme disease.(3) 

How Can Massage Therapy Help With Chronic Pain? 

Massage can help treat CPS in a number of ways. When living with chronic pain your body is often staying in a “fight or flight” like state – this is when the body produces cortisol, our stress hormone. Cortisol can be a good thing in short bursts – if we are being chased by a lion for example, or perhaps a more relatable example from today’s world would be having to hop out of the way of a car while crossing the street. It is chronically high levels of cortisol in our bloodstream due to chronic stress that is not healthy for us and can lead to chronic pain. Studies show that regular massage therapy results in an overall decreased level of cortisol and increases serotonin and dopamine, our “happy hormones” which are associated with relaxation. Massage, as we know, is also great for treating muscle and joint aches and pains. The combination of directly treating muscles and joints along with the systemic effect of decreasing cortisol and increasing serotonin and dopamine helps to decrease overall pain as well as other symptoms such as stress, anxiety/depression, and loss of sleep (4). 

Living with chronic pain does not have to be debilitating. Proper management and care along with appropriate lifestyle changes is an important part of managing chronic pain. Massage therapy treatments tailored to your individual needs is a great way to help manage your pain and work to regain your lifestyle.  

I have a special interest in treating chronic pain and work closely with the other health care providers at Choice Health Centre to provide a comprehensive treatment plan designed specifically for you and your needs. If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, please know that I am here, with the rest of the Choice team, to help you.

References:

  1. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/corporate/about-health-canada/pu blic-engagement/external-advisory-bodies/canadian-pain-task-force/report-20 19.html
  2. Jennie C. I. Tsao, “Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Chronic, Non-Malignant Pain: A Review”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 4, Article ID 416030, 15 pages, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nel109
  3. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/chronic-pain-syndrome-overvie w#1
  4. Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci. 2005 Oct;115(10):1397-413. doi: 10.1080/00207450590956459. PMID: 16162447.

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