Massage therapists have come a long way in reducing pain and improving wellness. Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek physical therapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy. Back pain affects around three in four adults at some point in their lives. Research supports that massage is a bona fide back pain treatment option. This could be welcome news to those who prefer not to use medications or invasive approaches to managing back pain. The right massage therapists can make all the difference in achieving the benefits.
The first thing is to determine the goals from the massage itself.
- Are there acute back or neck issues that need to be addressed?
- Looking for non-invasive therapy for long-term management of a chronic spinal condition?
- Is the massage for performance enhancement? It could be athletic or to help perform daily activities easier.
- Is it just wanting to relax?
Figuring out what is to be achieved from the massage is essential to finding the right therapist.
Massage clinic, spa, health club, home
A massage can be performed in health clubs, spas, medical clinics, and at home. The location does not predict the massage type or specialty of the massage therapists, but it can be an indicator. For athletic performance, a gym or Crossfit center massage therapist is a good place to start. If massage is part of a back and neck pain management plan, look into the massage therapists at a medical or therapeutic massage clinic.
Ask for recommendations and ask questions
When searching, get recommendations, and ask plenty of questions to get all the information needed.
- Talk to friends and family
- Look online to see reviews
- Use massage therapist finder apps from reputable companies, like the American Massage Therapy Association and Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
After a few prospects have been found, ask plenty of questions before making an appointment. This can help determine if this will be a long-term therapeutic relationship or a one-time visit. If looking to manage a serious spinal condition, the recommendation would be to find a therapist with more experience.
Massage education programs that are only entry-level do not provide in-depth education and practice for the many specific and complex spinal conditions. The real experience comes from years of practice along with continued education. This is how massage therapists are able to expand their clinical analysis and treatment development expertise. Get a sense of the massage therapist’s education and practice experience. This will help significantly when choosing a therapist best equipped.
Questions to ask potential therapists:
- How long have you been practicing?
- What’s your massage education?
- Related education or practice experience? Many nurses or occupational therapists go on to become massage therapists. This means the information and knowledge from their nursing are now integrated into their massage practice.
- How much-continued education have you gone through?
- How many sessions do you offer?
- What does the schedule look like? Think about scheduling when the therapist refreshes, like early in the workweek or on their scheduled shift.
- Do you have specialties with specific conditions or techniques?
- Do you get massaged? If so, how often? Massage is a labor-intensive task. Therefore, it could be best to go to a therapist that keeps themselves healthy and balanced.
- How long does it take for the initial appointment?
- Do you have to book ahead?
If a therapist is booked, don’t get frustrated
If a long-term therapeutic relationship for managing a spinal condition is the goal, it may be worth waiting for. A therapist with a long wait time for initial appointments means they have patients that see them regularly, which is an excellent sign of quality care. One possible option for individuals waiting for their appointment is to go to a local massage school to get treated. This option is less expensive, great for body maintenance, and provides opportunities for training therapists.
A quality indicator is the professionalism of the therapist. This includes the extent to which they model the values of a healthcare professional valued by the patient. This is different for everyone. Questions to consider:
- Are they on time?
- Does the therapist cancel appointments?
- Are you comfortable around them?
- Do they listen?
- Does the patient help in the development of a treatment plan?
- Are they comfortable and engaged in the work?
- Are they taking their massage career seriously?
Feeling at ease during the appointment/s is very important to massage success and relief. If anything about the therapist causes hesitation, look for another.
Massage is an excellent back pain treatment option that has gained popularity as a complement to pain management plans and as an alternative to invasive procedures. But massage is not a cure-all. Often the cause of the back pain does not go away entirely. This is where massage therapy comes in as a pain management tool.
It’s important to consider the condition’s duration and severity when evaluating the success of a session. This helps in planning the massage schedule. When there is a complex and established spinal condition, be patient, as a 1-hour massage will not solve a 10-year back pain battle. However, with perseverance, massage can safely and effectively help reduce pain and promote a better quality of life.
Whiplash Chiropractic Massage Therapy
The information herein on "Massage Therapists and Spine Health" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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