We see it everywhere in our culture – everyone wants the quick fix – Got a virus? Give me an antibiotic!! Got back pain? Let’s fix it with surgery!! Overweight? Just do the latest diet for a week!! I saw it advertised on TV, so it must be right. The government protects us from false advertising!!

Dream on.

If you look at these “quick fixes”, you find there are major long-term problems with all of them. And they really don’t even work in the short term. We buy into the promises – and hopefully live to regret it. We only really learn from the experiences if we quit chasing the next promise and truly look at ourselves to find out what, if any, the results were from our last “quick fix”.

There is a better way, but it involves taking the path that doesn’t promise the quick fix. And it actually usually ends up taking less time, energy, and money and having better long-term AND short-term results.

Let me give an example: Suppose a woman has neck pain as a result of a car accident 5 years ago. It is getting worse. The pain is spreading. Pain pills deaden the pain, but also deaden her life – she feels that she isn’t able to enjoy herself. A surgeon might suggest fusing her spine together to relieve the pain. If she wishes, she can have the surgery within a week. The promise is that her long-term pain will be gone then. But it doesn’t quite happen that way. If she has the surgery, she first has to recover from the trauma to her body. Next, she has to have physical therapy to recover even to the level of functioning she was at before the surgery. The natural flexibility of her spine is permanently gone. She will always have scar tissue. And recent studies show that surgery just to relieve chronic pain generally just creates more pain, along with reduced function. I have a suggestion – try non-invasive therapies BEFORE opting for surgery. There are quite a few that have helped other people – acupuncture, chiropractors, massage, etc. Remember also that all doctors and therapists are human too – the difficulty is finding both the proper modality AND the proper practitioner for your needs.

I’m a Massage Therapist. I became one because I have a talent for reducing pain through massage. Referring to the example, I have had good results with people both after surgery AND before they have had surgery.

Before surgery, I would work to release muscles injured in the car accident. These muscles are probably tightened, increasing pressure on the spine and causing pinched nerves. Without this release, other muscles will tighten to try to compensate for the injury. More stress. Local muscular overloads become common. Pain gets worse. Releasing the damage in the muscles allows them to return to normal function without pain.

After surgery, the original muscle injury is still there – the surgery just tries to reduce its effects on pinched nerves. There is also the damage caused by the surgery. I would work to clear the original injury and restore function reduced by the surgery.

Sometimes, surgery is the only viable course – to repair major physical damage caused by accidents, for example. Massage still has a place in recovery. Almost invariably, there is also damage to muscles. Even after the muscle heals, it still can have deep injuries called “Trigger Points” that weaken the muscle and cause pain. Doing physical therapy to strengthen a muscle with a Trigger Point is counter-productive until the Trigger Point is released, and can cause excessive pain and frustration both on the part of the Physical Therapist AND Client.

Properly done, massage to release Trigger Points has the following characteristics:
Massage will cover most muscles in the body. Trigger Points can cause pain far distant from their location.
• The massage will add little discomfort to your condition during the massage. You will leave with some relief; occasionally the relief will be complete after the first session, but this is not to be expected.
• The day after the massage, there will be at most a minor achiness. This can be minimized by drinking enough water to flush the toxins that massage released from your muscles.
• For about 2 days after the massage, your condition should gradually improve. For optimal results, I have found that a follow-up massage during the initial stage should be scheduled every 2-4 days.
• The positive effects of massage are cumulative – the second session will generally produce more and better results than the first.
• When your pain is gone from one session to the next, it is time to start reducing the duration and frequency of the sessions.
• If the injury is old, maintenance massages may be required to stay pain-free – typically a massage every 2-8 weeks, as needed.

Chronic pain can also be due to excessive stress in your life. Massage can help with this, but it may be necessary to deal with emotional sources of your stress as well for full recovery.