How Therapeutic Massage Relieves Pain and Speeds Healing


I want to talk today about how therapeutic massage can help relieve pain and speed healing. In our physical therapy practice, we know that massage offers so many benefits, like these:

  • Helps relieve pain
  • Increases circulation
  • Loosens overly tight muscles
  • Makes joints more flexible
  • Helps soft tissue injuries heal by flushing out inflammatory products in those tissues

Addressing Impairments Found During a PT Evaluation

In physical therapy, when we are doing an evaluation, we’re going to be palpating muscles and determining where your impairments lie. We’ll look at which muscles are tight and which muscles are weak.

Sometimes what we find is that the reason you have tight muscles is because those muscles are weak. Your body is actually tightening them as a way to kind of fake the strength that they should have in order to stabilize you.

Although the pain you might be having is coming from those tight muscles, we still have to get to the root cause. We still need to get you stronger, but we’re going to probably include some soft tissue massage techniques to help control your pain first. That way, you can be more willing to move and more willing to do the exercises and stretching and strengthening needed to make lasting changes.

Our Massage Therapy Options

There are a few different types of massage therapy that we might use, such as:

  • Active release therapy
  • Trigger-point massage
  • Instrument-assisted soft tissue techniques

In this last category, there’s different kinds of tools that we might use, like gua sha tools or Graston tools and different forms of cups for myofascial decompression. These hard plastic or silicone cups can help distract tissues as we move them along your body. Or we might have them on your tissues as we ask you to move.

Again, if we’re thinking about tightness of muscles and things being bound down, we can bring about improvement through myofascial decompression. In this technique, these cups can actually lift and provide space and allow the soft tissues to glide more readily over each other. This feels so wonderful and helps our patients move a lot better.

Our Therapeutic Massage Therapists Are Available to You

We’re very happy to have therapeutic massage therapists at both of our Lafayette and Pleasant Hill clinics. We can use that therapy as an adjunct to your plan of care.

Your physical therapist might do a bit of soft tissue technique as they find appropriate in your evaluation, but if they feel like more extensive work needs to be done in order for you to get better faster, they might also recommend going to our therapeutic massage therapists so they can spend more time in certain areas.

The great part, too, is that we can communicate with those therapists. So sometimes you might have massage therapists that you go to in spas and places like that. Our massage therapists are trained in therapeutic massage, not just spa-type massage. Our physical therapists are able to send them a message, speak to them in the hallway, or let them know exactly the things that we need them to work on for you.That way, you get a very targeted and customized program.

Reach Out to Us to Learn How We Can Help

With every patient we treat, we like to look at the whole person. We want to make sure that we’re addressing all aspects of care and using all the adjunctive therapies that we can to get you better faster and more effectively.

To find out how we may be able to help you at Bay Area Physical Therapy or Lafayette Physical Therapy, please call our front desk to set up a complimentary consultation or evaluation. Call us at (925) 284-3840 today.

Lauren Masi is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, board-certified clinical specialist and certified athletic trainer. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physiological science from UCLA, a master’s degree in physical therapy from CSU Northridge, and a doctorate from the University of St. Augustine. As owner of Lafayette Physical Therapy and Bay Area Physical Therapy, she has assembled a skilled team to provide highly personalized and effective care. Lauren’s extensive career encompasses expertise in various physical therapy techniques, including Mulligan and Paris methods, myofascial release, and spinal mobilization. Lauren enjoys horseback riding and family time when not treating patients.