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Massage and Bodywork for Pain Relief

Updated: Jun 5

People get a funny expression on their faces when I explain what I do. 🤨 I may see an expression of wonder, and they say, “Oh yeah, that would be awesome!!!... “ Others, “Ewww, you do WHAT with your feet?!?”

Back massage using feet

Massage is more mainstream now than it was back when I graduated from massage school 27 years ago. With Massage Envy and other popular massage chains and spas bringing it into the public eye, it's more common now for people to get a massage.

But even with massage being more mainstream, touch is just a weird thing for some people. PERIOD.

And when some people find out I massage with my feet, it kicks the weird meter up a couple of notches! Ashiatsu barefoot massage... while it's unique, different, and a little out there as far as what the public thinks about massage, it's not a new thing. Many cultures in India, China, Japan, and others have a history of various types of barefoot massage used to TREAT various issues. Please read our blog explaining more about Barefoot Massage. Written records of just massage in general as a healing form of treatment can be traced back thousands of years ago in Egypt and China. Here's a great article with more history.

Whether it's with the hands or the feet, touch is a powerful thing. And just because we use our feet to massage doesn't mean we can't treat pain with them.

Most Americans have a limited view of massage & bodywork. It provides SO much more than relaxation. When and why did massage therapy take a back seat to drugs, surgery, and other medical interventions for providing pain relief? I'm sure it's complicated, but I've worked with a lot of clients over the years, and here is a majority of what I've seen, heard, and observed:

  • Some would prefer to take over the counter or prescribed medications and ignore ALL the side effects because their insurance pays for it. Have you listened to the disclosure in those drug commercials?? For every benefit, there are FIVE negative side effects.

  • Massage isn't always covered by insurance, so it's out of pocket. Yet by the time you pay a copay for the office visit, and then the drugs you've paid for one session. And if they don't work, you're back to where you started. Hurting and in pain.

  • Have back pain or a headache? Take some ibuprofen or a muscle relaxer. Only to have it come back when it wears off, OR it doesn’t work at all! Maybe the pain incapacitates you for a week—couch time. No work. Who pays for THAT?

  • "The doctor says surgery is my only option."

  • "Massage can help with THAT?? Really?"

We are bombarded with ads for drugs and surgery as THE answer. Big Pharma. Drugs CAN be life-saving, but they shouldn't be the first option for pain relief. Did you know that more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids in one day? A 2016 National Study on Drug Use and Health found that roughly 1 in 10 people struggle with some level of substance use, including addiction to prescription drugs.

We need to find an alternative! And while we can thank(or NOT) major massage chains for bringing massage front and center to the public eye, most of the time, it's portrayed for purely stress relief purposes or a nice relaxing treatment at a spa. Massage, in general, is not perceived as an alternative to treating pain. Instead, you see a commercial with a beautiful woman in luxurious surroundings, lightly rubbed with oil or hot stones. Insert eye roll. I'm not paying someone to rub me down with oil when I can do that myself, thank you very much(heard THAT a few times as well).

The general public and most medical doctors rarely think of massage as an alternative for pain relief.

Do you know how many muscles have trigger points that refer to back pain? There's the Gluteus Medius, Multifidi, Psoas, Iliacus, Longissimus, Rectus Abdominis, and Iliocostalis. And those are just a few of the muscles that can refer pain to the lower back.

The mid and upper back have about eight muscle groups that may refer to pain, not including the ligamentous, fascial components, and spinal discs that can contribute to pain in the back, neck, arms, and legs. You may go to Physical Therapy(PT) and get some strengthening exercises, stretching recommendations, and, if you’re lucky, some hands-on work. That’s a big IF. It's usually the exception, not the rule.

Most times, we see clients AFTER the PT, surgery, or the pills have failed. Don't get me wrong; PT is still a good thing! I always recommend clients go through PT and whatever their doctor recommends, as it's good for rehabilitation before or after surgery and provides strengthening exercises. They are trained to read X-rays, MRIs, and sometimes get a better idea of what's going on with the body.

My husband had a great experience with Occupational Therapy when he broke his hand in seven places. He went 2-3 times a week, and they did a little bit of massage, range of motion, and strengthening exercises with him. I went in to talk with them to see what his treatment looked like so I could be supporting their goals and work on him the days he didn't have therapy.

But unless it's broken, sprained, or strained, soft tissue issues may not show up on X-Rays or MRIs.

That doesn't mean something's not going on. And that's where I see a lot of people falling through the cracks. Unfortunately, PT is failing to address soft tissue issues with touch therapy. But with insurance reimbursement driving the treatment, I guess there's only so much time that they can spend with each client. Or maybe it wasn't included in their training.

But soft tissue issues are our main focus here at Bull City Soles!

I initially learned much of my pain relief training working for a PT as an aide. He hired and trained other Massage Therapists to work with his patients. We did 30-minute trigger point, ultrasound, and stretches with clients 2-3x a week for 6-8 weeks and had a very high success rate. Clients that failed to respond to our initial treatment were then referred for trigger point injections. Surgery was the LAST resort. Very few clients had to go that route. I believe that's because we addressed the soft tissue with touch.

Once a month here at Bull City Soles, we come together as a team to train and hone our skills to treat chronic pain. We have helped many clients after just ONE session. Some require 2-3 or more if they let the pain go on longer and it's in a chronic state of inflammation. Before coming to us, they had gone to the doctor, were prescribed muscle relaxers and/or anti-inflammatories, and STILL had pain. It cannot be very encouraging. That's usually because it was soft tissue related, and it was not addressed properly! In some cases, we were the last option before surgery.

Durham Massage Therapists

Not all pain has to lead to surgery. There are alternatives. There is HOPE.

If you are experiencing back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, headaches, or you've scheduled surgery for these issues, explore all your options first before heading down that road.

What do you have to lose? Better yet, don't wait until the pain becomes unbearable! You'd be amazed at what a 30-minute massage session can do for pain relief. And we can help you with self-care tips to help you feel better in the long run, possibly without drugs or surgery.

Call today at 919-477-9887 or schedule your appointment online with one of our trained massage therapists!


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