While massage therapy is becoming more accepted as an alternative means to managing physical pain from injuries and stress, the ability of massage therapy to decrease the usage of opioids for pain management is more recently being looked into.
With ever rising statistics of opioid addiction across the nation, it is important to know what other options of pain management are available and effective. While the best defense is avoiding the things that lead to issues like back and other pain (poor posture and body mechanics, bad workplace ergonomics), once the onset of pain occurs, there may be other means by which to alleviate at least some of the pain.
A regular stretching routine is of vital importance to chronic pain management. The muscles in your body are powerful and can often pull on joints causing postural and movement problems that are often the underlying cause of chronic pain. Tight muscles can also compress other sensitive tissues (i.e. nerves) causing restrictions and pain. Tonic muscles in the upper leg, for example, can cause dysfunction in the pelvis leading to chronic lower back pain. A regular stretching and massage routine to help release and relax these muscles can be quite effective in treating this kind of lower back pain.
Massage therapy should not just be considered a luxury treatment. It is medical therapy that dates back to ancient times and has been used by athletic teams and sports professionals for years. This therapy has been documented as having lasting effects on the body with no ill side effects or drug interaction. Properly applied, it helps improve circulation, decreases pain levels, increases range of motion and improves quality of life.
Earlier this year, the Center for Medicare Services printed new guidelines on medically approved non-opioid pain management and recommended that massage therapy be covered for pain management by insurance. In addition, 37 U.S. attorneys general called for the inclusion of massage therapy as a covered treatment option by all insurance companies. (revelation!) While still being studied, it is thought that the usage of massage therapy may help reduce pain levels associated with decreased usage of opioids in people looking to wean themselves off pain medications. More research is needed to evaluate what type and frequency of massage therapy that works best for this goal.
Opioid usage and addiction is a serious problem and many people wind up using opioids to manage their pain because they either cannot afford and/or do not understand alternative choices. Perhaps more generous insurance coverage for massage therapy, by those trained and licensed to administer it, would fill this need before resorting to the use of addictive drugs.
Jean Chamberlain, LMT, Modern Massage Works 610-444-5884