Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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Breaking the Pain Cycle with Massage


Massage therapists, chiropractors, and orthopedists often use the term “pain cycle” to describe the way muscles get “stuck” in a loop of dysfunction. Most of the time, intervention by a professional is required to “break” this pain cycle.

How the Pain Cycle Works

The cycle usually begins with an injury, such as a sprained ankle or car accident. Stress is often a catalyst, as well.

Stress or injury causes pain in a muscle, jump starting the vicious circle. Pain causes a muscle to tighten as a protective measure. Muscle tightening causes a spasm or cramp, restricting blood flow and waste products and toxins can become trapped. This restriction is called ischemia. The buildup of toxins and the lack of oxygen to the muscle causes the muscle to tighten further, which of course, causes more pain, and the cycle continues until something is done to break the cycle.

The Pain - Spasm - Ischemia Cycle
The pain – spasm – ischemia cycle.

Break the Pain Cycle with Massage

One of my main goals as a certified massage therapist (CMT) is to improve circulation to a painful muscle. This improved circulation floods the muscle with fresh blood and oxygen. Increased blood flow allows for waste products and toxins to be flushed from the muscle to be processed by body’s organs for elimination.

A massage can also stop a spasm or cramp. If the cramp is resolved, the muscle does not have the chance to become ischemic. Stopping the cramp can also block the formation of trigger points.

Massage can also trigger the release of endorphins or hormones that relieve the affected muscle of pain.

Any one of these effects can break the pain cycle.

Once broken, you can prevent the pain cycle from beginning again by following proper massage aftercare instructions.

Stop the pain cycle by scheduling a mobile massage appointment with me in the Greater Kansas City area.

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