Which Alternative Health Therapies work best with Massage? Topic #2: Acupuncture

Acupuncture originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Wikipedia defines Acupuncture this way: “Acupuncture is an alternative medicine methodology originating in ancient China that treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles that have been inserted into acupuncture points in the skin.” According to Traditional Chinese medicine, activation of these points stimulates qi (life energy) channels and can correct imbalances and restore health. Although there is no solid scientific proof that Acupuncture works because of lack of controlled testing, there is a significant amount of historical and anecdotal evidence that it helps many ailments including control of pain, reducing inflammation and nausea, and help with fertility. Acupuncture practitioners also claim a series of treatments will affect the Parasympathetic Nervous System (the rest and digest mode) in much the same way Massage does.

Both Massage and Acupuncture regulates and calms the stress response in our “fight or flight” Sympathetic Nervous System by releasing the hormone Oxytocin, which in turn helps fight auto-immune conditions such as arthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

In additon, Massage and Acupuncture increases blood flow and relaxes shortened muscles. Increased blood flow results in more oxygen reaching our tissues, providing nutrients, our bodies natural pain killers, and hormones which help them heal.

Acupuncture and Massage both release our bodies natural pain killers and reduces chronic pain and perception of pain. The body interperets touch in much the same way it interperets the needles entering the body–a signal is sent to the brain which tells it that it has been under trauma. The brain releases chemicals such as endorphins and norepinephrine–both potent natural pain killers.

When thinking of conditions that present with pain, nausea, or diseases with inflammatory causes, the combination of Acupuncture with Massage is a powerful 1-2 punch.


Which Alternative Health Therapies work best with Massage? Topic #1: Chiropractic Care

With so many Alternative Therapies out there in our health care sphere, I have many clients who ask me about what the benefits are to combining them together–if they should, and if so, what the benefits are. Many of my clients complain of pain and stiffness in focused areas, such as the neck and lower back. Some of these cases are caused by a car accident, and injury, or an old surgery site that has a build up of scar tissue. This pain hinders them from performing daily tasks and creates further problems down the road when the body starts compensating for the pain by recruiting and overusing supporting structures. Postural problems and harmful compensation patterns can result in misalignment problems in the spine and skeleton.

Chiropractic Medicine is defined as “A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation.” by The World Federation of Chiropractic Medicine.

How do you know if you might require Chiropractic care instead of only massage? If the pain goes away briefly with massage but recurs or gets worse with time. Many times your massage therapist will be able to feel a subluxation (aka a spinal bone out of alignment), and will be able to refer you to a Chiropractor.  If your pain is caused by subluxation, your Chiropractor may be able to provide you with relief by realigning and mobilizing your skeleton at its source. When your soft tissues (like muscles and connective tissues) are subjected to the stress of having to pull your bones back to their correct place, this causes pain, knots, and compensation patterns in other areas of the body.  The realignment of bones and joints that takes place during chiropractic adjustments corrects these problems, allowing the soft tissues to stop working so hard, therefore relieving the source of the pain. Chiropractors are also doctors, which massage therapists are not. They are able to take x-rays, prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements, and make more advanced referrals to other health care providers.

And the opposite scenario can also be true. Because soft tissue like muscle and tendon are connected to joints and spinal bone, when muscles and connective tissues become tight and shortened from overuse or injury, they can pull bones out of alignment. This in turn, exacerbates problems. A visit to your Chiropractor to adjust a misaligned joint should accompany a massage session scheduled as close together as possible for the greatest benefit.

Tune in next week when we talk about the benefits of massage combined with accupuncture…