Acupuncture and massage are a match that were made long long ago - over 3,000 years in fact. Acupuncture together with massage, called Tui Na in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is therefore a classic combination with a proven track record of success for many ailments such as neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, headache, foot pain and more.
Truly, there are many things that shouldn’t be divorced from Acupuncture for maximal effectiveness. Chinese Medicine includes not only Acupuncture, but Tui Na, Cupping, Gua Sha, Moxa (heat application), Chinese herbs used both internally and topically, lifestyle and dietary advice, Qi Gong and Meditation. All of these modalities are designed to be used together synergistically to create the greatest and most beneficial effect.
Most Acupuncturists will combine several of these modalities into every Acupuncture treatment. I allow 10-15 minutes in every Acupuncture session (sometimes more as time allows and as symptoms dictate) for bodywork therapies - Tui Na, foot reflexology, cupping and/or gua sha. I feel strongly that massage helps the body integrate the energetic treatment of Acupuncture into the physical symptom improvements we are seeking to create. These bodywork therapies, which all fall under the broader category of massage or therapy from a Western perspective, can move Qi and Blood, relax and lengthen muscles, improve range of motion and thereby reduce pain and improve function!
Benefits of Combining Acupuncture and Massage
By far, neck pain and back pain are the syndromes that always warrant combining Acupuncture and Massage in my clinic. The benefits of Acupuncture are so widespread - not only can Acupuncture directly treat the muscles and joints involved in the pain, but it can also improve organ function, improve circulation, decrease stress (which is a big contributing factor in both of these types of pain) and reduce pain by decreasing inflammation and creating natural endorphin release.
One of the best parts about direct Acupuncture treatment for neck pain and back pain, is the fact that the needles can go right to the heart of the pain. You know that feeling like you have an itch you can’t scratch? Or pain that feels like it is so deep inside your back or hip or neck that while massage feels great, it just feels like it can’t get deep enough? This is often because the smaller deeper stabilizing muscles are in spasm, or because the pain is in the joint itself, and massage has to go through all the superficial layers first and just can’t get deep enough.
Enter Acupuncture - the direct line in. It bypass the superficial layers to go right to the heart of it and affect change! It also creates neurological change along the way that helps with long term healing - Acupuncture has actually been proven to cause changes in mu-opiate receptors in the brain which can change your experience of pain (in a positive way!) long term on a neurological level.
When you combine the benefits of Acupuncture with the benefits of massage, these benefits are amplified and become stronger and longer lasting. Once you’ve bypassed those superficial levels and gone to the root of the problem, the body relaxes and circulation improves. When you follow Acupuncture treatment with Massage, the massage treatment can go deeper and get farther to create positive change. It also helps to integrate the energetic and physical changes to set the treatment and make it longer lasting and more successful
The benefits of massage alone are likewise many fold - improved circulation, improved relaxation, stretching, lengthening and softening of muscles. Tui Na, or traditional Chinese massage, is like a fusion of Swedish, deep tissue and sometimes Thai, as there are specific stretches recommended for certain physical ailments. This means traditional Chinese massage is highly adaptable to any specific ailment or comfort level.
When you combine the power of Acupuncture with the benefits of massage, truly you experience an incredibly powerful healing combination. For acute injury, especially car accident whiplash and back pain, and for sports injury (I have a strong Iron Man and Ultra Running contingent!) Acupuncture + massage can be quite transformative, highly efficient and therefore highly recommended.
Neck Pain and Back Pain Treatment Today!
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.