When people start to feel neck or back pain, one of their first thoughts is usually, “My muscles are really tight, so I must need a massage.” This thought process leads them to seeking a massage therapist. However, when should someone look to see a chiropractor as opposed to a massage therapist?
Is It Just Muscle?
In my practice, one of the questions I always ask patients during a consultation is “What do you think is wrong?” Probably the most common answer the I get in response is that they think that they have either tight or pulled muscles. However, I rarely find that the problem is just muscular.
The most common problem I find after an exam is that the patient has a misalignment of the spine. Since muscles attach at the vertebra, this misalignment can cause muscular pain or tightness. But it can also cause pressure onto the spinal nerves as well. So, rarely do I find that the problem is just muscular, or just bone, or just nerve pressure, it is usually a combination of all three. While a massage might help with some of the muscular discomfort in this case, it will not fix the problem that is causing the pain.
Chiropractic and Massage Work Great Together
I feel like far too often people, including chiropractors and massage therapists, think that you should get either a massage or an adjustment, but not both. In my experience, I find that both treatments work well when used in combination.
As a chiropractor, by adjusting the spine, I am able to put the vertebra back into its proper position, thus relieving nerve pressure and keeping the muscles from being pulled due to the misalignment. However, massage therapists are much better at focusing on the muscles alone, and are better at relieving muscle tension.
When Should You Get a Massage?
If you are trying to decide whether you should get a massage either before or after an adjustment, there is really no correct answer. It is a personal preference. I have patients that prefer getting a massage prior to an adjustment, and some that just love to relax and get a massage after seeing me. If you are unsure, give both times a try and see what you like best.
As a chiropractor, I will say that I sometimes find that patients adjust better if they get a massage before coming to our office. It just seems like the massage helps loosen the muscles and allows the spine to move more freely. But it most cases it really doesn’t make a big difference.
The one time I would advise patients to not get a massage is if they are currently in a lot of pain and have inflammation in the muscles. In this case, if the massage therapist digs in too deep they can cause increased inflammation and make the pain worse. I have seen this a number of times in practice. If you are unsure, just ask your doctor.
I hope this post has helped answer any questions you may have about when you should get a massage and when you should get an adjustment. Both are great options, and in most cases it shouldn’t be either one or the other, but both.