Disclaimer: I am a massage therapist, not a doctor. This article is written from my vantage point and life journey within my body and observing bodies around me, from clients and people within personal relationships.
Let’s talk about pain and inflammation and how it functions within the body.
What is pain?
It is a signal from the body to pay attention because something is wrong. It is your indicator to examine and investigate so you can address the issue. It could be an injury, an infection, a breakdown of normal body functioning, overuse of muscles, misalignment in posture and walking stance, or even a nerve over-firing or being pressed upon by a muscle or bone.
Most people tend to try and ignore pain when they feel it. Grab a couple of painkillers and simply keep going on with life. While painkillers have a place and can be fantastic in helping to deal with the side effects of actually feeling the pain, it doesn’t do anything to address the problem. Imagine you accidentally cut or scratch yourself enough to draw blood. Most likely, the response is to go and wash the wound and put a bandaid on it or even put pressure to help stop the bleeding, not grab a pain pill and say to yourself, “It’s fine I’ll just deal with it” and let the wound continue to bleed or be exposed to harmful bacteria that can cause worse problems.
If you fall and injure yourself substantially then your response would hopefully be to go to the doctor get x-rayed and see what type of damage, if any has been done. If your tooth is aching your response would be to go see a dentist. But what about pain that makes no sense. It shows up one day, perhaps gets worse but there hasn’t been any injury or something that pops to your mind as being immediately wrong? Ignore it? Deal with it? Or see a professional to help identify the source?
I often observe people ignoring the pain, taking a painkiller, dealing with it, and going about their daily lives. It’s never until the pain is so unbearable that it motivates a person to do something. I would encourage you as the reader to learn to get more in touch with your body. This can help identify a pain source early and address the root cause before the problem exacerbates into a big issue.
Types of pain and how to explain it….
Identifying what type of pain you are sensing can also help your doctor or other practitioner investigate the mystery source of your pain. Be very specific when explaining what you feel. Point to the area in your body and be aware that where you may be feeling the pain isn’t always the source of the pain. Giving your practitioner more information as to how you are experiencing the pain will help them better identify the source of the pain as they investigate.
Here are ways to explain the type of pain and how it feels:
Tiring or exhausting
Hot or burning
Here are some other ways to explain your pain to your therapist or any other medical professional looking to help you feel less pain.
How long have you been experiencing your pain
Where you feel the pain
How does your pain limit or affect what you can do
Whether your pain is in one spot or spread out
Does the pain move around
How the pain feels and how severe it is
What activities make pain worse or improve it
What you have tried to improve the pain
How often the pain occurs and how long it lasts
Anything that triggers the pain, such as movement or something specific
Whether pain is constant or comes and goes
Now let's talk about inflammation:
Inflammation is your body's immune response to an injury or infection. Sometimes this inflammation can persist in the body and it becomes a chronic inflammation that causes damage to the tissues AND CAUSES PAIN.
Having experienced general inflammation in my body I would describe it as this….
The body itself feels a bit heavy. Moving arms, legs, and the body in general takes what feels like extra effort. Moving feels like trying to get through a pool of molasses. Everything feels more difficult and energy is lower.
When I work on clients with general body inflammation I notice the skin is more tough. I think this is likely due to the swelling around the cells and the extra fluid the body is holding onto in the form of inflammation. The muscles are often tougher and harder to work on as opposed to pliable in a non-inflamed body.
Based on this description you would think that inflammation is a bad thing but it’s actually a good thing. You see, your body is always aiming to keep you alive. It notices a threat and gets to work doing what needs to be done to help resolve the problem. In chronic cases, it is overreacting with inflammation, which sucks.
So, How Can Massage Help?
Massage therapy targets the muscles. It can help to loosen tense muscles and release knots (areas of built-up tension) that can cause some general aches and pains. Special massage techniques can be targeted to specific issues such as frozen shoulder, sciatic pain, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and aiding in rehabilitating injuries. Massage can assist the body in moving better.
It can help reduce tension being placed on a nerve. This is often the case with sciatic pain. Taking tension off the nerve helps it to stop firing and telling you you are in pain. It can also help your joints move and function better, temporarily reducing arthritic-type pain.
Typically a massage will release endorphins and this can not only help you feel euphoric but also reduce how you experience pain. On-going massage can assist the body with overall movement and pain reduction for pains caused by muscular issues. Also, when you're working with a massage therapist regularly, they get to know your body and can assist you as it changes as you move along on your life journey.