Combine your massage therapy with chiropractic adjustments.
Look, we get it. There are a lot of benefits of massage therapy outside of the functional ones. The solidarity, the peace and quiet, the babbling brooks and Zen music playing, and the concept of “treating ourselves”. It all makes sense to us! Taking care of your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health. In no way are we discrediting massage therapy. However, from a functional standpoint, your massages would be a lot more effective if you recognize that muscle tightness is a symptom of a greater loss of function.
There’s an adage in the chiropractic field that says “muscle tightness is the fever of subluxation”. Never heard of that one? We figured as much :).
Look at it this way, when you get sick it often comes with a fever and chills. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re sick until you get a fever and chills. These are symptoms that alert you that something is wrong. However, medical professionals treat loss of function, not symptoms. While the fever and chills are the symptoms, the loss of function when you’re sick lies with your immune system.
Imagine if every time we got sick, we just took a bunch of Tylenol to control the fever and chills without ever addressing the bacteria/virus that’s making us ill. Or if when your car stopped driving properly and was making a strange noise, the mechanic just fixed the noise but the car still didn’t drive. Would you still pay an auto shop if they fixed the noise, but the car didn’t drive?
Muscle tightness is the fever of subluxation (misalignment of the spine). Your spine is responsible for facilitating communication from the brain to the rest of the body. Your vertebrae form a protective column surrounding your spinal cord which communicate with every inch of the body through neurological pathways. Pain, sensation, reflex, automatic function, movement, and even immune response coordination are a product of neurological communication. When the spine is misaligned, the body is not functioning at its full capacity and communication pathways get jammed.
Your body will do everything in its power to keep your spine in the correct alignment and avoid pain as a survival instinct. With regards to muscle function, your muscle groups will work hard to either pull your spine back into optimal alignment, or protect you from experiencing pain.
For example, about 60% of the population experiences stress or tightness in their neck. We tend to imagine our muscles as the problem because it is the most tangible symptom that we can point to. It’s the one causing the pain, so we view it as the solution to our problem: if the pain just stops I’ll be fine. Now imagine that the real reason your neck is always hurting is because your cervical spine is out of alignment and your muscles are working “overtime” trying to prevent you from injury. The average human head weighs about 10 pounds, and if your cervical spine is functioning properly the neck muscles have to pick up the slack. Could you hold a 10 pound dumbbell out in front of you for 24 hours? What about 7 days a week?
Real improvement occurs when we address the loss of function and the symptoms improve as a byproduct. Using our neck example above where our neck muscles are working too hard because of misalignment of the cervical spine: what if we simply realigned the cervical spine? Your neck is functioning at its best when it has a lordotic curve. Think of this natural shape as a lower case “j” with the dot being your head. As the head comes forward, it straightens out your neck which puts more pressure on the spinal cord and vertebrae, which then causes surrounding muscles to tighten and resist etc.
It’s simple cause and effect. If my spine is misaligned, it will cause neurological interference and muscle tightness. Therefore, if I realign the spine, the neurological interference and muscle tightness will resolve.
In conclusion, no one is saying you don’t deserve that 90 min Swedish Massage with the hot stones. Treat yourself! But, if you want that massage to be effective, combine it with chiropractic adjustments so the muscle soreness/tightness STAYS away longer than for just a couple of days. Remember, you wouldn’t pay a mechanic to fix the noise your car is making if you still can’t drive the car. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you pay for a massage without fixing the loss of function.