Starting Point: What Is Inflammation & Pain?
Another week, another post! Today we’re going to be looking at a bit of a controversial topic: can massage make inflammation worse or does it actually improve the condition?
Alright with that outta the way let’s talk about inflammation and pain. What is inflammation to begin with? Is it that feeling of soreness after completing a 2 hour workout at the gym? This feeling of soreness post workout is often referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short. You can read more about DOMS here!
Let’s look at this in more detail. DOMS is caused by micro-tears or micro-trauma to muscle fibres; it’s a result of strenuous exercise. How about inflammation? Let’s look at classical inflammation.
According to livescience, inflammation is a vital aspect to the immune system’s response towards injury and infection. Inflammation is a means to signal the immune system to defend against invaders and heal and repair damaged tissue.
Why is it important to understand the difference? Because what you think of as inflammation might not be inflammation but might be DOMS! A lot of people confuse the two, and it’s important to make this early distinction right off the bat.
Now that we know what inflammation is, let’s try to understand if massage can help or worsen inflammation specifically.
How Do You Know You’re Dealing With Inflammation?
How do you know you’re dealing with inflammation, and what are some of the tell tale signs? According to Wikipedia, the 5 classic signs are redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function. Mind you these are signs attributed to acute inflammation.
You can read more about these signs by clicking the link above. One important sign I quickly want to touch on is pain.
If you truly have inflammation in an area of your body, you will likely also be in some degree of pain! Now let’s be completely frank here. If you’re in pain, massage is probably not something you’re thinking about! You’re thinking of pain relief and how to get it ASAP.
An acronym (as mentioned on Wikipedia) to remember is PRISH: pain, redness, immobility, swelling, and heat. Without going into the details from a scientific standpoint, do you think it makes sense intuitively to massage an area that is in pain, swollen, and hot to the touch?
Can Massage Make Inflammation Worse?
I don’t think science is even required to answer this. If you think about it logically and apply simple common sense, you would know that massaging an area that’s in pain, hot, swollen, and red in colour is never a good idea.
In fact, inflammatory conditions of an acute nature are known to be a massage contraindication. That means massaging the affected area is not advised/recommended.
To answer the question “can massage make inflammation worse?”. In my honest opinion yes I believe it could! Pain will only be exacerbated if one massages an already inflamed area.
I’m no expert in the field of massage therapy, and I lack the scientific knowledge to understand all the details, but as mentioned earlier common sense should prevail here!
If Not Massage, What Should You Do?
Well if it were me, the first thing i’d do is pick up the phone and book an appointment with my physician. Inflammation is a medical condition, and if you want to relieve yourself of the symptoms, you best seek medical help!
Pay your doctor a visit and seek his/her expert opinion on the matter. Yes i’m all in for those who “take their health into their own hands”, but that doesn’t mean you forgo the opinion of a trained professional. It’s never a good idea to be “too extreme” with something.
Always have a balanced approach. Absolutely do your research, read up online as there’s lots of useful information, but at the same time consult with the right professionals. This is the best way I’ve found based on my own experiences. Anyways, I hope that gives you some direction on how to move forward.
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Please share your experience as it will help everyone who reads this post. That’s all from me, have a fabulous weekend wherever you are!