S3:E12: Massage and ALT treatments For pain

Is chiropractic adjustments quackery?  Is a massage as seedy as they say?  Some say yes, others say no.

For Meena, a certified yoga and pilates instructor, the answer is clear.   After undergoing brain surgery, she sought help though alternative medication. 

As we learned in our last episode, she’d become weary of pain medication, pills and potions so often used and abused in this country. Instead she got relief from acupuncture.

On today’s show Meena discusses her experience with massage, chiropractors and reflexology for pain relief. 

Then she explains what caused her to undergo brain surgery.  What were her symptoms and how did she finally locate a neurologist.

Does health insurance cover alternative treatments?

Meena was looking for help with pain and her insurance, which was amazing, did not cover any alternative treatment for her pain .  Their solution, much like today is highly addictive pharmaceuticals.

Even today if you have Medicare, according to their website, message therapy is not covered.  Many insurance companies tend to treat massage as an elective treatment with no medical benefit. 

One way around this is if you can get a referral from your doctor to a physical therapist or medical message therapist.   Meena’s health plan allowed such a referral to a physical therapist who was also a massage therapist.

What is a massage therapists?

A medical massage therapist is a licensed massage therapist (LMT) who treats health conditions diagnosed by a doctor. Massage therapy in medical settings is growing because the practice of combining traditional and alternative medicine is increasing.

More hospitals and medical centers are offering these types of treatments and more health insurance companies will cover the cost.

As opposed to traditional masseuse, medical message therapists aretrained to focus on healing injuries improving function and circulation.  For example, athletes use medial message both prior to and directly after injury.

But the work of medical message therapist can treat health conditions such as neuropathy, cancer, fibromyalgia and even high blood pressure.

Treatment is usually performed in clinic or a hospital and the therapist works closely with the primary care physician.  

A general massage therapist usually works in spas and their goal is not to treat injury but to promote relaxation and stress relief.

Are messages effective?

As discussed in the podcast, there are different types of messages.  The Swedish message is also considered the classic message.  Regardless of the procedure, all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.

As far as effectiveness:

One Australian study found that a 10-minute muscle massage after a workout could reduce soreness by 30%. A separate review study on massage found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol dropped 31% following a rubdown, while levels of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin increased roughly 30%.

Pain and depression relief were commonly associated with massage according to Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami.

“Some of her work has shown that massage may improve immune system function in people with breast cancer and leukemia, along with reducing their physical and emotional pain. Asked how massage could provide so many health perks, Field says several fMRI studies have shown that massage increases blood flow in areas of the brain associated with mood and stress regulation.

“Pressure receptors under the skin, when stimulated, increase vagal activity,” she says, referring to the vagus nerve, a major component of the human nervous system that plays a role in autonomic functions like heart rate, breathing and digestion. Increased activity in the vagus nerve could have—among other benefits—a meditation-like calming effect, which would explain the drop in cortisol and other stress-related symptoms.”

What are the risks of chiropractic treatment?

Chiropractic adjustment is safe when it’s performed by someone trained and licensed to deliver chiropractic care. Serious complications associated with chiropractic adjustment are overall rare, but may include:

  • A herniated disk or a worsening of an existing disk herniation
  • Compression of nerves in the lower spinal column (cauda equina syndrome)
  • A certain type of stroke (vertebral artery dissection) after neck manipula

There have also been some reports that neck cracking could harm eyesight by causing bleeding in the eye.    The Daily Mail reports:

 A medical journal has reported the case of a 59-year-old woman who suffered spots in her vision after an appointment with her chiropractor.

She was found to have multiple hemorrhages in her eye – thought to have been caused by her forceful treatment.

The woman had undergone high-velocity neck manipulation, which involves energetic thrusts of the neck and produces a cracking sound as joints are moved apart.

The technique has previously been linked to strokes and is now also thought in rare cases to damage the eye.

The report was done by the University of Michigan.  The report went on the state the woman’s eyesight went back to normal after a couple of weeks and the hemorrhages dissipated after about two months.    But, the report continues,

…she also suffered a mild detachment of the vitreous humour – the clear substance that fills the eye between the lens and the retina. In rare cases patients may need laser treatment or surgery to seal such tears.

What are the benefits of Chiropractic adjustments?

Unlike messages, Chiropractic treatment is covered under most health insurance and even medicare according to their website.

People seeking relief of pain particularly of the spine and back, usually find their way to a chiropractor. Other complaints include pain in the neck, jaw, arms, legs, and headaches.

Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments.

Chiropractors believe proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury caused by a traumatic event, such as falling, or repetitive stress, such as sitting without proper back support.

Chiropractic adjustment can be effective in treating low back pain, although much of the research done shows only a modest benefit — similar to the results of more conventional treatments. Some studies suggest that spinal manipulation also may be effective for headaches and other spine-related conditions, such as neck pain.

Not everyone responds to chiropractic adjustments. A lot depends on your particular situation. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve after several weeks of treatments, chiropractic adjustment might not be the best option for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *