Massage + Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be reduced through massage.

For a pain to be termed as "chronic" it will be ongoing pain lasting 12 weeks or more. Chronic pain can arise for a range of reasons. The most common causes of chronic pain are injury or long-term illness. Chronic pain can occur in any part of the body and can increase stress, anxiety and sometimes depression.

A massage aims to disturb the pain cycle in order to reduce and relieve any pain and prevent it from recurring. As a massage therapist my aim in using massage for chronic pain is to reduce stress and increase relaxation.

How can massage reduce pain?

Decreasing pain

A massage can help to decrease pain. Pain can arise for a variety of reasons. Common causes of pain include injury, trauma or muscle overuse. Pain occurs when receptors within the skin detect something isn"t right. The receptors will then send a signal to the brain where it is then passed on to nerves. Nerves are what create a feeling of pain.

When using massage, I aim to reduce pain by increasing healing and disturbing the pain signals sent to the brain. During a massage, the skin and fingers create friction. Friction encourages blood flow to increase. Oxygen and nutrients are carried within the blood flow. Oxygen and nutrients are essential for the repair of damaged muscle fibres. Therefore, increasing blood flow increases the rate of healing helping to reduce pain. The friction created between the skin and fingers, also creates a new sensation. The new sensation is picked up by the receptors within the skin, disturbing the signal sent to the brain. Disturbing this signal means fewer messages are sent to nerves to create a feeling of pain. A new message encouraging relaxation and decreased pain is sent to replace the original message.

Decreasing tension

Tension occurs when muscles are unable to relax and stay in the state of contraction. Tension can cause muscular knots to form and muscle tightness to increase, further increasing feelings of chronic pain.

Massage for chronic pain can reduce tension by encouraging relaxation and increasing range of movement. During a massage, muscle temperature increases due to an increase in blood flow. When muscle temperature increases, the elasticity and flexibility of tissues increase, and muscles are able to loosen and stretch. When muscles loosen and stretch, relaxation increases, reducing tension. An increase in tissue elasticity and flexibility, improves range of movement to help further reduce a build-up of tension. Reducing tension by improving range of movement and increasing relaxation also helps to decrease pain.

Reducing stress

Chronic pain can cause stress to increase both physically and mentally. Stress increases physically by restricting movement, causing muscles to tighten and the ability of muscles reaching its full length to decrease.

Stress is increased mentally by chronic pain due to a stress hormone called cortisol. A massage aims to reduce stress by encouraging relaxation of muscles and reducing cortisol levels. Relaxation is increased due to an increase in muscle temperature. Increasing muscle temperature allows muscles to relax by increasing tissue elasticity. Increasing relaxation decreases physical symptoms of stress. A massage stimulates the production and release of feel good hormones. Feel good hormones include endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Feel good hormones are responsible for increasing mental relaxation providing a sense of well-being whilst also reducing stress. Feel good hormones replace cortisol to help further reduce stress. Multiple studies have been conducted and found this to be true.

Will massage fix me?

Chronic pain is a complex beast which is more than just a physical sensation, it be influenced by attitudes, beliefs, personality and social factors, which means it will take a multifaceted approach to tackle.

For all the above reasons, massage can be very helpful with chronic pain, however most probably it will take more than just massage to get your pain to an acceptable level. One of the most important factors in pain reduction is taking control of your own pain and self managing your condition. If you want to read more about pain and how you can manage it please see my earlier article here.


Chronic pain is a pain that has occurred most commonly by injury or illness and can last 12 weeks or more. There are various massage types suitable for the relief of chronic pain including sports massage, deep massage, remedial massage and therapeutic massage. A massage for chronic pain can help decrease pain, decrease tension and reduce stress. Many physiological effects occur during massage for chronic pain, the most common being increased temperature, the removal of waste products and increased endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. A range of benefits including increased range of movement, increased relaxation and the relief of muscle tightness can all be gained through massage for chronic pain.

Capri Clark is the founder of Bayside Remedial Massage and Healing in Brisbane. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Nursing and a Diploma in Remedial Massage. Capri's gentle techniques bring a huge amount of care and skill to her treatments. If you would like to book in for a session with Capri, you can click here.

If you want to book in for remedial massage with Capri you can book on line here