A lot of people who don't have persistent pain don’t realise how much chronic pain sucks. Ongoing pain isn’t just about physical discomfort – it also affects your mental wellbeing, your social life and your long-term health. This is why I have such a strong focus on chronic pain management as a myotherapist.
But what can myotherapy do to help with chronic pain? I’m glad you asked! One of the things I love about myo is that it has so many tools, so there is always one that can suit your needs and tolerance. Here are the main ways I use myotherapy techniques to help you manage chronic pain.
It helps to manage acute flare-ups
When you have chronic pain, it’s common to have a flare-up of symptoms and/or pain levels. Sometimes it can be your nervous system increasing your sensitivity, and sometimes it’s a physical factor such as tight muscles that cause issues.
Either way, different techniques such as taping, massage and mobilisation can relieve the flare.
It can down-regulate the pain response
One of the main problems with chronic pain is that the body becomes more sensitive to pain messages sent by the nervous system. Sometimes the number of connections along nerves can be altered. Other times, there is a greater release of neurotransmitters, which makes the body super-sensitive to sensation.
I cover this a bit more in my pain matrix article, but non-painful sensations can block the danger messages. This means that pressure from a gentle massage or myofascial release stretching can help to reduce pain.
It can look at the root causes behind chronic pain
There are so many factors that can lead to chronic pain, and even more that can aggravate it. But as a myotherapist that focuses on chronic pain, it’s my job to be an investigator into your pain. Your treatment plan might include exercises and stretches that aim to correct any underlying causes of pain.
We’ll also have regular discussions about the lifestyle factors that might be contributing, and ways to modify them. And if I think one of your triggers is out of my zone, I’ll refer you to a trusted practitioner who also works with chronic pain.
It can reduce stress hormones
Want to hear something cool? The relaxation after a myotherapy session isn’t all in your head. Research has found that massage can reduce cortisol, your main stress hormone, by 31%.
As a bonus, it can also boost your levels of feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. If that isn’t a good reason for regular myotherapy sessions, I don’t know what is!
It can release trigger points
Ever had a little knot feeling on a muscle, that when pressed, feels so sore but so good? That’s a trigger point. These taut bands are like a micro-spasm of a muscle (not a full muscle spasm like if your leg cramps in the night!) Trigger points can contribute to chronic pain, and they can certainly exacerbate it. Because trigger points tend to have referral patterns, they can also make you feel pain outside of the area that the actual trigger point is found.
As part of your myotherapy treatment, I can release any problematic trigger points around the area of pain. For example, if you have chronic headaches, I might look at the trigger points around your head, jaw and shoulders.
Tape can be used to stabilise joints if needed
If your chronic pain comes with any joint instability, taping is a great tool for managing it after you leave the session. By using either rigid or kinesiotape, depending on the issue, we can stabilise the problem joint or joints. That way, your painful area is supported and you’re less likely to make movements that aggravate the pain. The tape can also be used to help continuously guide and remind your joints of a better position to rest in which helps to take strain off certain areas.
Looking to manage your own chronic pain? Your no-pain, all-gain myotherapist is here to help. Head here to book your appointment today
One condition that I see a lot in my clinic is fibromyalgia. People of all ages and all walks of life can have fibromyalgia, and it is still a misunderstood condition. So today, I want to share a myotherapist’s perspective of fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
This diagnosis is a condition that can affect multiple systems of the body. Symptoms can include widespread muscle and joint pain, fatigue, digestive issues, brain fog and weakness, among many, many other associated symptoms. People with fibromyalgia may have other health concerns, including musculoskeletal issues. In my experience, fibromyalgia can come hand in hand with conditions like bursitis, disc injuries, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and plantar fasciitis, and many more.
Pain is a major symptom of fibromyalgia, but it can vary from person to person and day to day. Typical fibromyalgia pains can include both muscle aches and nerve pain – it can feel like a deep ache or sharp, shooting, burning, throbbing or like pins and needles. Some days the pain can cover the whole body, others it may be one area. Today it may be back pain, tomorrow it’s hands and feet. Fibromyalgia can be unpredictable at the best of times!
Fibromyalgia, Pain Threshold & Pain Tolerance
One thing that fibromyalgia clients should keep in mind is the difference between pain threshold and pain tolerance.
Pain threshold is the amount of stimulus needed before the pain signal begins. Someone with fibromyalgia will usually have a low pain threshold - that means they feel pain often with very little "cause". They may wake up with aching, tight muscles without having over used those areas or done anything out of their ordinary routine to aggravate the area. People who experience allodynia can experience pain from normally non-painful things like the sensation of clothing on skin or the pressure of sitting in a chair.
On the other hand, pain tolerance is how much pain a person will withstand before seeking help. Many fibromyalgia clients build up a high pain tolerance, putting up with pain levels that would send the average person to the emergency room!
So if a practitioner mentions you have a low pain threshold, it simply means your nervous system is on high alert. It responds quickly to incoming messages about potential danger - even if rationally you know there is little or no actual danger. Its a neurological response, not a psychological response. For more about pain responses and the role of the overactive nervous system, see my previous article.
How can myotherapy help with fibromyalgia?
Many people with fibromyalgia are terrified of getting physical treatments, as they’ve often had painful massages and treatments in the past. Unfortunately many of my fibromyalgia clients have been told by previous therapists that "it needs to hurt to be effective" which I don't believe in one little bit. A gentle myotherapy session can be incredibly beneficial!
I like to be upfront with my treatment approaches, so I want to make it clear - I don't claim to be able to cure fibromyalgia using myotherapy treatments. There is no known cure. But what I have found time and time again is that regular myotherapy treatment is excellent for keeping flares at bay and managing muscle and joint pain to make day to day activities easier and more enjoyable.
A few ways I use myotherapy to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms includes:
Although these are some treatments I use, every client is different. The whole process is in your hands – if something hurts too much, we will find an alternative that doesn’t hurt. After all, I am the ultimate ‘no pain, all gain’ myotherapist!
A typical treatment plan for fibromyalgia includes a few treatments fairly close together to begin with - ideally weekly or fortnightly. As the treatments begin to hold longer and longer, the time between treatments becomes longer. Most of my fibro clients find their "sweet spot" for ongoing maintenance treatments to be anywhere between a fortnightly treatment to once every 6-8 weeks.
Is it always ‘fibro pain’?
One thing that I often see is clients and doctors putting new pains or symptoms down to being fibromyalgia-related. Although this might be true, there’s also a chance that it’s not. That’s why I always encourage clients with any chronic pain condition to get new symptoms checked out by a musculoskeletal practitioner.
For example, one of my fibro clients recently was diagnosed with lumbar stenosis - a narrowing of the canal where the spinal cord runs. His leg symptoms had been put down to being fibro-related for years, but I wasn't convinced and asked him to get a second opinion from a chiropractor who could send him to have some scans to investigate. After getting an MRI, it was determined that in addition to fibromyalgia, there was actually a structural cause for his deep leg pains.
Fibromyalgia might be hard to manage, but co-existing issues don’t have to be. By identifying any other conditions and managing them from the start, you can see big improvements in your pain levels and a reduction in flares.
Are you ready to support your fibromyalgia pain in a holistic, effective way? Don’t hesitate – book yourself in for a session today.
One thing many clients ask me is ‘is myotherapy painful?’ Some people haven't experienced therapeutic massage techniques, and others have seen remedial massage therapists and experienced pain during or after treatment.
This is something that I’m very passionate about. So I thought I would share my opinion about whether myotherapy should be painful, and who it suits.
The difference between myotherapy and other massage styles
There are many different types of massage and bodywork. Most people are familiar with Swedish massage and remedial massage. But myotherapy is quite different from these common forms of massage.
Generally speaking, Swedish massage is known as the ‘soft’, relaxing form of massage. The focus is overall relaxation of the body. A Swedish massage follows the same routine for every person, moving in gentle, rhythmic ways that help calm and relax the person in a way that feels wonderful.
Remedial massage is sometimes known as ‘deep tissue’ work. A remedial massage can be great for relieving widespread tension and pain throughout the body, and for maintaining good muscle health. A remedial massage is hands on, working the muscles in the region that the person is experiencing pain.
Many people might think that in comparison to these two, myotherapy has to be painful, deep work.
I recently overheard someone tell a friend "oh, you don't want myotherapy, its like a really really deep remedial massage, it hurts like hell!"
However, myotherapy can be gentle – it doesn’t have to hurt to be effective!
Swedish and remedial massages tend to cover a broad area, while myotherapy focuses on the specific and tailored management of pain and dysfunction to support people during rehabilitation from pain or injury. So if you experience specific pains or a specific condition that affects the muscles and joints, myotherapy might be the best option to support you.
The greatest advantage of myotherapy is that it can be adapted to anyone’s needs. If you have chronic pain and are very sensitive to touch, we can relieve tension using gentle techniques that won't set off alarm bells in your nervous system. But if you enjoy a good trigger-point release, we can accommodate that as well! Every persons treatment plan will look different, depending on what your body needs most.
What happens during myotherapy
You might think that myotherapy is just another type of massage. But in fact, myotherapy is a lot more holistic in the approach to caring for your muscles and joints. Massage is only one aspect of myotherapy, and within it, there are several types that can be used.
Myotherapy includes use of extra skills including:
So in fact, myotherapy involves developing a full personalised treatment program that is specified to the condition you have and how your body is best supported. It’s not just about relieving the pain – it’s about rehabilitating the body so that you can heal whatever is causing the pain.
The right myotherapist makes all the difference
At Simple Wellness Myotherapy, I enjoy helping people who experience chronic pain to manage their condition. So I know how important it is to help relieve the pain they experience without inflicting more pain during or after treatment. There is a very strong policy against ‘no pain, no gain’ in my clinic room!
If you want to experience how gentle and supportive myotherapy can be for your body, make sure you book an appointment today.
Is myotherapy painful if it's done 'right'? Should massage hurt in order to be effective? These are the sorts of things I get asked all the time. As a practitioner with a strong interest in the world of chronic pain, I get very passionate about this topic. So apologies for the rant ahead!
Somewhere along the line, people started to equate pain and gain. It's in the workplace, in the gym, and now even on the treatment table.
There are many who think a 'good' massage or myotherapy treatment should make them wince. They think that:
But is this really the case?
Does pain really equal gain? I don't think so – particularly not for people already in pain.
If you're already experiencing pain, your nervous system is already on overload. And that means you're already vulnerable to more pain. Pain is not a healthy thing in large amounts!
In fact, when your body experiences pain, you'll have:
I don't know about you. But I think that if you walk out of a chronic pain treatment with more inflammation, fewer nutrients and more stress – it might not be a good choice for your healing.
On the other hand, a gentle treatment that lowers stress hormones and inflammation might be just what you need.
Can you have a pain-free treatment?
I believe that you can have a low-pain, if not completely pain-free myotherapy treatment. There's a few ways you can make sure that this happens:
You might still experience some sensations like tenderness on trigger points, or mild discomfort during a stretch. But that's not quite the same as pain – I'll explain in a later post.
Are you still worried about pain during a treatment? I want to hear your concerns and let you know how I can help. Send me a message, and we can talk about how to keep you pain-free.
Ready to get yourself a gentle AND effective treatment for your pain? Pop on over to the booking page to get started.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully.