Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy

Massage therapy is a treatment that compliments physical therapy. Massage therapy makes many of the physical therapy treatments more effective and efficient; therefore, decreasing the intensity, frequency, and duration of your pain.

Many injuries respond better and faster to a combination of treatments. We like to combine massage therapy with physical therapy whenever possible and appropriate. An example would be with headaches, neck pain, or low back pain. Many joint, tendon, or ligament injuries also have muscle strains associated with them.

We utilize the traditional physical therapy modalities of heat, ice, electric, ultrasound, cold laser, spinal decompression, stretching, and exercises to decrease the pain and establish normal movements. Often times, the protective muscle spasms are slower to respond to physical therapy alone. This is when we like to combine massage therapy with the physical therapy treatment plan.

Why Does Massage Therapy Improve Physical Therapy?

Massage therapy is excellent at decreasing muscle spasms, decreasing pain, improving joint range of motion, and breaking up scar tissue or fascial adhesions.

Often in chronic repetitive stress injuries, such as slouching at a computer, the muscle becomes slowly injured over time. The muscles go through cycles of injury, repair, and healing. Eventually, poor healing occurs in an area. This small patch of poor healing is called a fascial adhesion, or simply scar tissue. Scar tissue tends to stick muscle tissue together. This prevents normal movements from occurring and is a potential site of future injury. The scar tissue becomes aggravated with use, goes through an inflammatory cycle, and produces more scar tissue around it.

The scar tissue gets bigger and grows in size, like the rings of an onion. Each time the outer layer gets aggravated it produces more scar tissue around the area. You may feel this in your neck, many people describe a “knot” that won’t go away. This knot is often times scar tissue that has been growing over time.

Why Does Massage Therapy & Physical Therapy Help With Decreasing Scar Tissue?

Scar tissue is a weak link in normal muscle. It prevents the motion that should occur and it is easily injured with normal movements. People are describing scar tissue adhesions when they say, “I have a knot right here where all the pain usually begins.” Or say their “headaches begin in this spot and move toward my head. We usually find scar tissue as a contributing source of their pain.

People with many types of chronic repetitive injuries have described the process of having an injury with a scar tissue component. The area gets injured. Then it gets better and the pain goes away. However, the area with the scar tissue is structurally weaker. The pain then eventually returns with normal activity. People tend to have several rounds of injury on the same spot. It comes back and it usually starts in the same place. Some episodes are more painful than others, and take different amounts of time to recover from each episode. But the pain keeps coming back.

Benefit of Combining Physical Therapy with Massage Therapy

Treatment involves decreasing the size of the scar tissue through physical therapy and massage therapy. In combination treatment goals are to decrease pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms. Treatment also is designed to improve flexibility, strength, endurance, and normal muscle movements.

By aggressively working the scar tissue adhesions the outer layers of the onion break apart. The body recognizes, breaks down, and absorbs the scar tissue. The next treatment session focuses on the most outer layer, and it is broken down for the body to absorb. Treatment is a process that works to break down the outer layers for the body to absorb, and then break down the next layer on subsequent sessions. It is a process of breaking down or “peeling” the onion one layer at a time.

The amount of treatment depends on the size of the scar tissue knot and how long it has been there. Most people admit the knots were not that size 5 years ago, and that they have become bigger with time.

Massage therapy helps break down scar tissue faster than traditional physical therapy alone. We also utilize a technique called Graston Technique that helps break down scar tissue in a different way. Combining Graston Technique, massage therapy, and traditional physical therapy provides the fastest and most efficient relief from scar tissue pain.

Injuries that involve muscle, and especially scar tissue, may require massage therapy to completely resolve the pain and injury. Otherwise the muscle remains weak and has a greater likelihood of becoming injured again.

Read and see more about Graston Technique and Massage Therapy Information in Chandler.