Massage therapy and chiropractic treatment are two complementary modalities that can provide significant pain relief and improved health when used on their own. However, research shows that combining these two therapies can have even greater benefits than using just one or the other. This integrated approach utilizes the strengths of both massage and chiropractic to enhance healing, function, and overall well being.
How Massage And Chiropractic Work Together
Massage therapy and chiropractic both aim to reduce pain and improve health, but they work in different ways.
Massage uses techniques like Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and trigger point therapy to manipulate the soft tissues of the body. Massage increases circulation, relaxes muscles, reduces muscle tension, and mobilizes the joints. Massage is thought to reduce pain by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and increasing the release of endorphins and serotonin.
Chiropractic focuses on the alignment of the spine and other joints. Doctors of chiropractic use techniques like spinal manipulation and mobilization to adjust misalignments in the joints, especially the vertebrae of the spine. Chiropractic adjustments are thought to reduce pain and improve function by restoring proper nerve communication and joint mobility.
When used together, massage therapy and chiropractic complement each other. Massage loosens up tight muscles and gets the joints ready for adjustment. This allows chiropractic adjustments to be more effective. The chiropractic adjustments are then better maintained when the surrounding muscles are relaxed after massage.
Benefits Of Combining Massage And Chiropractic
Research has confirmed that combining massage and chiropractic leads to better outcomes than using either therapy on its own. Some of the evidence-based benefits of integrating massage and chiropractic include:
- Faster pain relief – Studies show that patients experience faster reductions in pain when massage therapy is added to chiropractic treatment. The relaxation response from massage enhances the effects of the chiropractic adjustment.
- Improved range of motion – Massage helps improve joint mobility prior to adjustment. Combined with chiropractic, range of motion improves faster than massage or chiropractic alone.
- Decreased muscle tension – Massage reduces muscle tension. Combined with chiropractic, the adjusted joints experience less resistance from surrounding muscles.
- Enhanced function – The combination of modalities leads to greater improvements in movement and function. Massage enhances joint mobility from chiropractic.
- Increased flexibility – Massage loosens muscles and allows for greater stretching. Combined with chiropractic, flexibility improves faster.
- Better posture – Chiropractic adjustments aligned with relaxed muscles from massage lead to improved posture.
- Lower stress – Massage promotes relaxation. Combined with chiropractic, stress and anxiety decrease more rapidly.
- Improved sleep – The relaxation benefits of massage can improve the quality and duration of sleep when combined with chiropractic.
- Accelerated injury recovery – For musculoskeletal injuries, the combination provides faster relief from pain and inflammation to speed healing.
- Enhanced athletic performance – Range of motion, flexibility, and posture improvements from the combination can improve athletic performance.
- Decreased use of medication – Patients experience greater pain relief, allowing some patients to decrease use of pain medication.
- Patient satisfaction – Patients are more satisfied with their care when massage therapy is added to chiropractic.
How Massage And Chiropractic Improve Blood Flow
One of the ways massage therapy and chiropractic provide pain relief and healing effects is by improving blood flow throughout the body.
Massage techniques like effleurage, petrissage, and friction increase circulation of blood to the muscles and skin. Improved blood flow enhances delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues to aid healing.
Chiropractic adjustments can improve blood flow by reducing nerve interference that causes blood vessels to constrict. Aligning the vertebrae removes pressure on nerves and allows blood vessels to dilate.
The combination of massage and chiropractic improves blood flow more than either therapy alone. Massage directly enhances circulation while chiropractic removes nerve interference to blood vessels. This multiplied effect increases blood flow to efficiently deliver oxygen and healing components to muscles, joints, and other tissues.
Conditions That Benefit From Integrated Treatment
Research shows that a variety of musculoskeletal and pain conditions respond well to combined massage and chiropractic therapy. Conditions that benefit include:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Shoulder pain
- Knee pain
- Hip pain
- Herniated discs
- Sprains and strains
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- TMJ pain
- Post-surgical recovery
- Athletic injuries
The integrated approach is effective because it targets both the joint dysfunction treated by chiropractic as well as the surrounding soft tissue dysfunction treated by massage therapy. For many conditions, the combination provides faster and longer lasting relief.
Benefits to Muscles, Tendons, and Ligaments
Massage and chiropractic also provide direct benefits to muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Massage techniques like myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and cross-fiber friction break up adhesions and scar tissue that develop in muscles and tendons. Massage increases flexibility of muscles and range of motion of tendons.
Chiropractic adjustments align the bones to allow muscles, tendons, and ligaments to move freely without compensation from joint dysfunction. This prevents overuse and strain injuries.
Together, massage and chiropractic keep muscles, tendons, and ligaments flexible and mobile to prevent injury. Massage also aids recovery of strains and tears by improving blood flow to carry nutrients and oxygen needed for healing.
Timing of Massage and Chiropractic
Getting the timing right is key to maximizing the benefits of integrated massage and chiropractic. There are a few approaches:
- Massage before chiropractic – Most common method. Massage prepares muscles and enhances following adjustment.
- Massage after chiropractic – Helps muscles relax to hold adjustment. Promotes relaxation.
- Alternating massage and chiropractic – Goes back-and-forth. Allows adjustment during massage.
- Simultaneous massage and chiropractic – Performed at the same time. Used for instrument-assisted techniques.
The timing and techniques can be customized to each patient. The most common protocol is massage first to loosen muscles, followed by chiropractic adjustment, finished with massage to enhance relaxation.
Finding Providers of Massage Therapy With Chiropractic
If you want to experience the benefits of combined massage and chiropractic, the first step is finding providers who offer massage therapy with chiropractic:
- Chiropractors who offer massage – Many chiropractors have massage therapists on staff who can provide integrated care.
- Massage clinics with chiropractors – Some massage clinics have partnerships with chiropractors to offer combined care.
- Multidisciplinary clinics – Health centers with massage therapists and chiropractors on staff allow for coordinated treatment.
- Independent providers who communicate – You can receive massage and chiropractic from separate providers who communicate about your treatment plan.
- Referrals – Ask your chiropractor or massage therapist to refer you to a complementary provider to integrate care.
No matter what setting you choose, make sure the massage therapist and chiropractor communicate regularly about your treatment plan. Consistency is key to maximizing the benefits of combined therapy.
Research clearly shows that combining massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments leads to better outcomes than using either approach on its own. By working together, massage and chiropractic provide faster relief from pain, improved function and mobility, increased flexibility, enhanced athletic performance, and higher patient satisfaction.
If you are suffering from back pain, headaches, arthritis, injuries, or any other musculoskeletal condition, consider the benefits of integrated massage and chiropractic care. Working together, massage therapists and chiropractors can help you achieve whole-body pain relief, improved posture, increased blood flow, and optimal health.