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Massage therapy can help clients better manage a variety of health conditions, from arthritis to chronic pain. Helping clients deal with these conditions, requires that the massage therapist understand each health condition and its symptoms. The therapist also needs to consider adjustments that might be needed, both in managing the massage session and adapting the environment.

Massage therapy offers many benefits to people dealing with chronic pain, whether because of injury or as a symptom of another condition. Some people look for massage therapy to help manage pain after they’ve been cleared for massage therapy by their physician. Massage therapists may need to make some adjustments to both how the practice is set up, as well as how the massage therapy session itself is conducted. Clients suffering from fibromyalgia, chronic myofascial pain syndrome and arthritis, for example, may need some adaptions in order to get the most benefits from their massage therapy sessions.

Different clients are going to manage chronic pain in different ways. Some may have self-care routines that keep the pain under control between massage therapy sessions. They also may be working with other health care professionals to manage pain and deal with other symptoms of disease. All clients are going to experience pain differently. With these things in mind, there are some considerations when scheduling appointments with clients who are looking for help to better manage pain.

Try to imagine your practice from the point of view of someone whose pain might limit their mobility or make holding a pen difficult:

  • How easy is it for a client to get into your practice?
  • Does your practice have stairs a person has to climb?
  • Is there enough room if someone uses a wheelchair or walker?
  • Think about clients whose arthritis might make filling out an intake form difficult. How can you assist them in filling out paperwork?
  • If a client’s pain makes getting on and off the massage table difficult, could you provide a chair massage?

When working with people who are in pain, good communication skills are essential:

  • You need to know what pressure works and when the client wants you to go deeper and when they need you to back off.
  • Clear communication will also help in figuring out what techniques and modalities are most helpful, and which might not be working for them.
  • Additionally, because fibromyalgia clients might be experiencing sensitivity to environmental stimulation, you should discuss things like music, lighting and scents before each session.

Taking a few extra steps to help adapt your practice and massage sessions to meet the needs of chronic pain clients will help them to get the most out of their massage sessions, helping them to experience less pain and have a better quality of life.

©The Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks
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