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Pain Management Health Center

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Need Pain Relief? Massage Gets High Marks

Survey Shows Massage Ranks With Medications for Relief of Pain

Whole-Body Approach to Pain continued...

For these reasons, massage can be used to treat many different kinds of pain, says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

"Basically we have found massage to be effective in chronic pain syndromes in arthritis and diabetes; in depressive disorders such as ones that involve addiction like eating disorders; in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders -- HIV-associated diseases, too," Field told WebMD in a June 29 interview. "We have looked at the A-to-Z of medical conditions, and we have not found a single condition massage has not been effective for."

Brennan says all trained massage therapists learn the same basic techniques. As they go on to advanced training, massage therapists may specialize in one or more specific kinds of massage. There are more than 200 of these techniques, according to the Massage.com web site.

Qualifications for Therapists

Brennan recommends that a person seeking therapeutic massage look for a well-trained professional. Most states, she says, require that massage therapists be licensed or registered. And the AMTA web site maintains a referral list of massage therapists who meet certain standards:

  • Graduate from a minimum 500 in-class-hour massage therapy training program, or
  • Pass the National Certification Examination in therapeutic massage and bodywork, or
  • Possess a current AMTA-accepted license to practice, and
  • Earn continuing education credit, and
  • Uphold the AMTA Code of Ethics.

"If you are looking for someone dealing with chronic or acute pain issues, you may want to look for someone who does sports massage, neuromuscular massage therapy, orthopaedic massage, or someone who does craniosacral work or uses strain/counterstrain techniques," Brennan says. "But any list like this leaves out some qualified professionals. The best thing to do is to find a qualified massage therapist and talk with him or her about what you want massage for, be it relaxation or pain relief. Then ask what is their experience in addressing that issue."

Brennan says weekly massage is most effective but admits that not everyone has the time or money to get massage therapy that often.

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