Spinal Cord Injury Community

Pain Management: Massage Matters

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
09/22/22  10:25 AM PST

Bodywork Can Make a Difference For SCI

Throughout the years I have explored many methods for managing pain, stiffness, spasticity, and stress, all of which are common repercussions from a chronic spinal cord injury. I have tried it all— doctor-prescribed medications, holistic tinctures, natural herbs, Yoga, Pilates, Watsu and exercise— just to name a few! I do my best to stretch frequently and eat and drink well, but I still suffer.

What I have found is that although all of the above have a purpose and have provided me temporary relief, and even pleasure at times, consistent massage therapy contributes to the best carryover— meaning the longest lasting positive effects.

Bodywork can take many forms. Beginning from the ancient far east to the modern west, the techniques, methodologies, and therapies can widely vary.

For purposes of simplicity and safety, I will reference the five most common types:

  1. Swedish massage
  2. Deep tissue massage
  3. Lymphatic massage
  4. Sports massage
  5. Oncology massage

In general, massage has five regular health benefits:

  1. Lowers stress
  2. Increases immune function
  3. Boosts mental health
  4. Manages pain
  5. Improves physical function

For spinal cord injury, massage can have even more benefit:

  • Increases circulation
  • Improves range of motion
  • Decompresses joints
  • De-facilitates fascia tissue
  • Aids digestion
  • Reduces nerve pain
  • Enhances sensory input
  • Ameliorates motor-control
  • Improves skeletal alignment
  • Amplifies energy

For these reasons, I budget for a massage at least twice a month. I experience a distinct improvement in my levels of pain, function, and mood when I am consistent with treatment. If I miss a session or two, I can definitely feel it! It is as though rigor mortis sets in and I begin to lock up and tighten, everything slows, and my pain increases everywhere.

If a professional massage is not an option, I have found value in using a massage device like the Hyperice, Hypervolt, or Theragun. The hand-held tool is portable and can provide relief on the go.

My experience is that with all the health and wellness options out there to improve the quality of your life, there is nothing quite like the human touch. Even if your sensation is impaired the right practitioner can connect with your body, transfer good energy to and through you and will manipulate your muscles, your mind and your well-being.




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