Sadly soft tissue therapy or massage therapy can be overlooked when it comes to the management of chronic pain or injury. The term massage therapy; for many; still conjures up images of a relaxing treat. However there is so much more to soft tissue therapy than this and it is very beneficial in treating chronic pain and injury
Anybody that has received soft tissue therapy to help with their chronic pain can tell you how it has benefitted them and this may be emotionally as well as physically. They find that daily activities are not painful or that they are able to carry out tasks that have been impossible due to their pain. Additionally their pain levels reduce and with it sleep quality and quantity can increase. This increase in physical and emotional health then leads to increased enjoyment in life and ability to exercise.
Chronic pain can occur for any number of reasons from an orthopaedic condition to an old injury or from an autoimmune disease to repetitive strain . Regardless of the cause there is likely to be pain stemming from immobile joints, restricted muscles and connective tissues. These restrictions within the musculoskeletal system will commonly increase over time and with it discomfort and pain
So what can soft tissue therapy and massage do to help?? First and foremost it can be used to help to return muscles to their fully functioning length. When there is restriction in a muscle it will be unable to fully lengthen and this causes restrictions in joint function as the muscle will not allow full range of motion to occur. There are several techniques that can be used to achieve this during treatments.
By releasing the restricted muscle; and subsequent restrictions in the joint; further improvements can be felt with reduction of pain. This pain reduction can be felt in the affected joint and muscle as well as areas that have been overcompensating to support it.
Pain reduction also woccurs by the release of knots or trigger points found in the muscles. These trigger points are hyper-irritable bands of muscle fibre an will cause pain, muscle fatigue and reduced function in the muscle. They do occur naturally through working a muscle however often become incredibly painful and problematic for many people and require soft tissue therapy to release them. Many who suffer from chronic pain will be holding trigger points within a muscle or muscle group and can often point to an exact location of one. The Gluteal muscles are an area commonly treated in those suffering with sciatic type pain or lower back ache. Release of trigger points in this area more often than not will significantly reduce or stop this pain.
Additionally soft tissue therapy is extremely beneficial in reducing headaches and migraines. Commonly tightness in the shoulders and neck muscles is a major cause of chronic headaches and migraines and soft tissue release techniques can be used to treat them. Sadly modern life has many of us working long hours at a desk or driving for long distances and these activities can increase neck and shoulder tension. Equally stress and anxiety can do this as our shoulders tend to creep up towards our ears when we feel like this. By releasing the muscles responsible for headaches and migraines should reduce or stop this chronic issue and return the muscles to their full range or motion.
Chronic pain is often associated wih fascia or connective tissues. Restrictions in this fascia can cause chrnic pain that doesn't really ease throughout the day. It occurs due to the fascia adhering to the underlying muscles and significant reduction in the mobility of both of these tissues. Soft tissue release techniques are used to stop this restriction and return mobility back to the tissues.
Where there is an injury to the muscle or joint soft tissue therapy is used to help with recovery and to reduce any compications. It helps with a number of muscular issues caused during and after injury. When a muscle becomes injured scar tissue will be laid down in a haphazard fashion; this is less elastic than muscle fibre and can be considered a blockage in the muscle. This can mean decreased muscle function but soft tissue therapy can significantly reduce the impact of this by working to align the more restrictive scar tissue in the direction of muscle fibres which will reduce the impact it has on the muscles function. Soft tissue therapy can also reduce recovery time by helping the muscle and joint return to full function. It reduces issues of overcompensation, pain and inflammation. Nobody wants to be laid up for weeks and reducing this recovery time really helps.
The aim of soft tissue therapy is to keep people moving, pain free and in good muscular health. In doing so we see reduction in chronic pain and improved recovery from injury; with less complications. A complementary approach is often given as part of a patients journey and referral to an osteopath, physiotherapist or acupuncturist may be included during treatment. where necessary. Additionally exercises, stretches and self help techniques are always suggested to encourage overall muscular health and recovery.