The True Cost of Massage for Pain Relief

The True Cost of Massage for Pain Relief

Massage techniques, whether experienced at a spa or through a professional therapist, have a long history tracing back to ancient India around 3000 BCE. Historically, these techniques were developed to heal injuries, alleviate pain, and prevent or cure diseases. Nowadays, people seek massages for similar reasons, aiming also to reduce muscle stiffness and soreness, ease stress and joint pain, and support mental health, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System.

However, it's important to consider whether these methods address the root causes of pain and discomfort or merely offer temporary relief. While we do not deny that traditional or back massages can offer a sense of relaxation and may result in temporary pain relief and discomfort, it may not be a sustainable and long-term solution for most people.  

Temporary Results from Traditional Massage Techniques

The idea behind massaging the muscles is to hydrate some of the calcified or knotted segments by squeezing the tissue and restricting blood flow. This will then lead to a rush of blood and nutrients once the pressure is removed.

There's an uncomfortable experience often felt following a massage referred to massage malaise. During a massage, the manipulation of muscles and tissues can increase circulation and help to release stored metabolic waste products from the tissues into the bloodstream. As the body works to process and eliminate these waste products, it can lead to feelings of malaise, fatigue, or even mild nausea in some individuals. This is a temporary reaction and is generally considered a sign that the body is effectively detoxifying. Drinking water and staying hydrated after a massage can help to facilitate the elimination of these waste products more efficiently.

However, many people who suffer from chronic pain or chronic stress typically do not feel relief after massage malaise subsides, and even after several sessions for massage therapy. The reason for this is because many massage techniques out there may miss the calcified tissue or knotted segments of muscle.

The massage may bring about a sensation of relaxation and looseness in the body, but more than likely it will not change how you move your body around. Once you move more and more, these calcifications and knots will re-embed into your tissues, restricting certain ranges and limiting your ability to properly transfer force. Ultimately, this will result in pain and stress once again, returning you to a cycle of pain, massage, rest, and repeat.

Myofascial Release: Massage Technique Alternative

Myofascial Release massage (MFR) and traditional massage are both techniques used by society with the intent to relieve pain, improve mobility, and enhance overall well-being. MFR can be more effective than traditional massage due to its specific focus and technique. Here's why:

  1. Targeted Myofascial Focus: During myofascial release massage, tools are used to specifically target the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles, bones, and organs. Fascia can become tight, restricted, and cause pain due to various factors such as injury, stress, inflammation, or poor posture. MFR techniques work by applying gentle, sustained pressure to these fascial restrictions to release them, thereby restoring motion and eliminating pain. This focused approach can sometimes address issues that traditional massage, which primarily targets muscle tissue, may not fully resolve.

  2. Deeper Level of Healing: While traditional massage can be effective for relaxing muscle tension and improving circulation, myofascial release massage works on a deeper level, affecting the fascial network that penetrates every part of the body. This can lead to more effective changes in the body's alignment and functioning, potentially offering more comprehensive and long-lasting relief from pain and mobility issues.

  3. Holistic Approach to Pain and Mobility Issues: MFR considers the body as a whole rather than focusing solely on the areas where symptoms manifest. Because fascia is an interconnected web, restrictions in one area can affect distant areas of the body. Myofascial release massage aims to treat the root cause of pain and dysfunction rather than just alleviating symptoms, which can lead to more effective and lasting results.

  4. MFR can be Done at Home: MFR is a self-care practice that individuals can perform at home with the use of tools like lacrosse balls, softballs, hard foam rollers, or other self-massage tools. This empowers individuals to manage their pain and mobility issues actively, eliminating the need for frequent therapy sessions.

  5. Psychological Benefits: The gentle and sustained pressure used in MFR can also have a calming effect on the nervous system, potentially reducing stress and anxiety levels. This holistic approach not only addresses the physical aspects of pain and mobility but also incorporates the emotional and psychological components, offering a more comprehensive form of therapy.



Movement dictates Muscle Knots

In most cases, how and where someone develops calcifications and knots in their tissues is dependent on how they move. Asymmetries, over-compensations, unhealed injuries, and other dysfunctions in movement can lead to the body developing calcifications (calcium deposits) and knots that further limit range of motion and leveraging abilities.

Understanding the biomechanical factors behind muscle tension can shed light on why massage therapy, in isolation, might not offer a comprehensive solution to musculoskeletal problems. Some biomechanical factors include posture, muscle imbalances, and trauma, among many others. We will go over the mentioned three below: 


Chronic posture deficiencies can lead to an uneven stress distribution across muscle tissues. Massage therapy can temporarily alleviate the tension in these overworked muscles, but without addressing and correcting the postural habits, the relief may be short-lived, and the cycle of tension and discomfort will likely continue. Addressing posture takes a multifaceted approach, which cannot be resolved without also addressing movement such as how one exercises and how one rests to receive the benefits of that exercise.

Muscle Imbalances

A significant difference in strength or development between opposing muscle groups can cause biomechanical strain. Again, massage therapy might relax the tense muscles, but strengthening and balancing one's structure to take on external and internal forces are required to correct the imbalance and prevent future discomfort. Massage therapy doesn't have the capability to produce the force needed to change the structure of the body in this way.

Injury and Trauma

MFR, more effectively than massage therapy and traditional massage techniques, can provide relief in the healing process by increasing blood flow and reducing tension around injured areas. However, training in relation to our evolutionary blueprint to rehabilitate the injury and prevent compensatory muscle knots from forming, is a huge part of resolving chronic pain and chronic stress brought on by poor movement patterns. Injuries and trauma usually take more than just time, and to reverse the damage done, it typically takes additional forces brought on by retraining movement.



The emergence of Myofascial Release massage (MFR) as an alternative to traditional massage is more effective when addressing the source of pain and stress. With its targeted approach to the fascia, MFR offers a more holistic and comprehensive method for alleviating pain and improving mobility. Its ability to be practiced at home, combined with the psychological benefits of reducing stress and anxiety, empowers individuals to take an active role in their own healing process.

Understanding the biomechanical roots of muscle knots—such as posture, muscle imbalances, and the aftermath of injuries—highlights the limitations of massage alone. It underscores the necessity of incorporating movement analysis and correction into our wellness routines. Corrective exercises and a mindful approach to movement can address the underlying biomechanical factors contributing to discomfort.

Take the next step in addressing imbalances and trauma in the body with the Functional Patterns 10 Week Program today.

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