Pain medications come in all shapes and sizes. But all share two things in common: they help provide some level of pain relief and they are implicated in a range of side effects. Side effects from pain medications are unpleasant and can even significantly weigh down a patient’s quality of life. Research in alternative treatments like traditional Thai massage shows a potential alternate route to pain management—without the side effects.
Changing pain management dogma
Medication side effects are a significant limiting factor in pain management. A long-term study following patients with chronic pain shows that side effects management is crucial. In fact, managing the side effects from pain medication is more important because those same side effects negatively impact patients’ perception of pain. Ultimately, pain management seeks to improve patient quality of life, but if those same medications are inducing side effects so unpleasant that the perception of pain does not improve, then something in the treatment plan must be altered.
Recently, therapy techniques like traditional Thai massage have been shown to be effective vectors to pain relief on par with—and sometimes better than—over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen. Why is this significant? For starters, physical therapy is not associated with many negative side effects. That means patients with chronic pain using traditional Thai massage for minor pain relief can potentially enjoy a higher quality of life than those who rely on a host of pain management medications. By delivering a minor dose of pain relief without having to endure a list of side effects, patients can potentially self-report being in less pain than those who continue with their original treatment regimen.
How does traditional Thai massage work?
Traditional Thai massage is classified as a type of soft tissue manipulation. Here, a practitioner physically stimulates portions of the body to help promote pain relief. Pain relief is derived by stimulating blood circulation and nerve endings, resulting in reflexive effects that reduce muscle contraction and hardness. It is a mechanism differing from the pharmacological effects of drugs. Much of the benefits of traditional Thai massage comes from compression. By applying pressure on muscle fibers, practitioners enhance the circulation of arterial blood to the massage area. The improved circulation also helps remove toxins from the affected areas through venous blood. Together, patients enjoy reduced muscle stiffness and tension as well as improved motion and flexibility.
The bottom line?
When it comes to treating pain, patients want the best treatment options available. Unfortunately, not all pain management options work for everyone. Furthermore, existing approaches do not work across all demographics. To further complicate matters, pharmaceuticals that do reduce pain often come with a host of side effects. These side effects negatively impact a patient’s quality of life beyond the relief provided by the medication. For some patients, traditional Thai massage can be an effective alternate form of pain management. Moderate pain relief with few associated side effects.