Traditionally, chiropractic treatment was always preceded by massage. In many instances these days, this all-important step is neglected. Its benefits must never be underestimated as it can make a huge difference to overall recovery time and more importantly to how the patient feels after treatment.
Why should chiropractic treatment begin with massage ?
In many areas of the body there are six layers of muscle
The outer layers comprise the larger muscles: these are the muscles you train at the gym and know by name. You can touch them and see them as they are just under the skin.
When these muscles tighten up (go into spasm) they can cause a lot of pain.
Before the joints are realigned by chiropractic treatment it is helpful if the large muscles are temporarily relaxed with massage. It makes them less likely to irritate the newly-corrected joint(s).
Massage followed by chiropractic corrective adjustment is a winning combination as it leads to both reduced pain and reduced muscle spasm.
How can we relax the deeper layers of muscle ?
There are hundreds of tiny deep muscles such as the paraspinal muscles which attach to the spinal vertebrae and joints.
The only way to reach these muscles is indirectly by moving the bones or joints into which they insert. This is precisely what a chiropractic adjustment does.
Chiropractic adjustment (joint realignment) stimulates the nervous system, allowing muscles to relax and pain to reduce [see next section for explanation].
If the massage is not followed by an adjustment ie no correction made, the pain and tension quickly returns as soon as the patient is under physical stress again.
What actually causes muscle spasm?
Muscle spasm is involuntary muscular tension ie you cannot control it: the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) determines whether or not muscles go into spasm or relax.
When an area is traumatised the nerves' afferent fibres transmit messages back to the central nervous system to inform it of the problem. This is how we become aware on a conscious level that something is tight or sore.
The central nervous system responds via efferent nerve fibres back to the traumatised area. The response may include a command to local muscles to tighten up (go into spasm) to 'guard' the area in question. This causes pain.
If there is a joint misalignment present (a common cause of pain and spasm), chiropractic corrects the problem so that new afferent impulses feed back into the central nervous system (CNS).
The CNS now sends new efferent impulses which instruct the muscles to 'stand down' or relax. This reduces tension and pain felt by the patient.
What's so different about chiropractic massage ?
It's part of treatment performed by a highly-qualified health professional rather than a masseur.
Chiropractors diagnose the cause of the pain and know how to treat it correctly.
This type of massage is targeted to provide immediate relief and assist the all -important adjustments which are the key to correcting the original problem.
It helps the patient to relax which in turn makes it easier for the chiropractor to adjust.
What type of problems benefit from this combination of massage and adjustment ?
Lower back and hip pain, spasm and discomfort
Neck and shoulder pain, tension and limited movement
Rib cage and mid-back tension - with or without breathing difficulties
Massage relaxes muscles prior to chiropractic treatment