Massage therapy was once the stomping grounds of physiotherapists alone, but in recent years, CAM practitioners have stumbled into it head first. They offer everything from acupressure to trigger point release, the results of which range from beneficial to non-existent to downright dangerous. If you have non-malignant pain, massage therapy might improve your symptoms, but the type of specialist you visit will directly influence the results you get. The question is thus not whether massage should hurt, but which specialists know enough to hurt their patients without causing harm.
Scars and Risks
Some conditions involve scar tissue that should not be touched by alternative practitioners. Repetitive strain injuries, torticollis, and similar conditions should only be cared for by an accredited physiotherapist. Physical therapy is the only specialty with enough supporting evidence and knowledge to care for patients safely.
Massage outside this discipline has been studied in-depth, and results have been patchy at best. Some of your physiotherapist’s work will hurt, both during and after care. Don’t think of pain as a sign that your treatment has been more effective, but do understand the intent of your physical therapist. They’re in it to release, stretch, and strengthen your muscles, which can be painful initially. They may also help to establish your diagnosis. However, they are capable of helping you relax, too, if that is part of your treatment plan.
What to Expect
Physical therapy is only as good as its results. It should return you to active life, rehabilitate you, and help you to prevent injuries. It’s as much about educating patients as it is about diagnostics and care. You will learn how your body responds to your condition, how your daily life affects your pain levels, and what you need to do daily to bring genuine relief. Will it hurt? If it does, you should be informed as to why and how much pain to expect. Let your therapist know if you experience unexpected pain levels, and make sure a doctor is overseeing your care.