Finding Hope for Chronic Pain Relief - Combining Massage Therapy with Trigger Point and Reiki Therapy

These articles have appeared in one of the following publications: American Massage Therapy Association (ATMA) Newsletter, Awareness Magazine, the American Pain Foundation On-line Newsletter or the National Chronic Pain Outreach Association Newsletter.

It was over ten years ago that I sat in a doctor's office preparing to have yet another x-ray taken of my knee when I had a disturbing conversation with the technician. She told me that most people who suffered from the  kind of pain I had never recover. I was in my mid-twenties and had  already struggled with the injury for over a year. I couldn’t imagine having to live with such discomfort for the rest of my life.

I immediately became determined to make a full recovery and I refused to buy into such a negative perspective. I couldn’t believe that a medical professional would say something that  could make someone feel so hopeless.

I had already tried physical therapy. I'd had x-rays and an MRI, but the doctors couldn’t find what was wrong. Eventually, I  did find relief for my pain. I discovered the world of alternative  medicine. I wound up seeing an acupuncturist, getting massages and I learned how to do Trigger Point therapy on myself. Since then I have become a practitioner. I don’t believe people should have to live with chronic pain and so I have made pain relief one of the focuses of my  practice.

Reiki Provides Relief
Several clients have come to me requesting reiki treatments for their  pain. Reiki is an ancient touch therapy that, like acupuncture, balances the ‘chi’ or energy of the body, but without needles. In contrast to massage, the hands remain still during treatment and emanate heat which  induces a state of relaxation in the patient. The sensation that reiki  produces may be subtle but its effect penetrates far more deeply than  the hands can physically. Thus it accelerates and assists in the healing  process.

Reiki doesn’t just help relieve chronic pain; it also works on an emotional level. People who suffer from chronic pain tend to experience  depression. Finding yourself unable to move the way you're accustomed to  is understandably upsetting. I find patients frequently report that their physicians prescribe antidepressants for the emotional repercussions of their ailment without addressing the ailment itself or confirming that their emotions are not abnormal (as in they are not  ‘clinically’ depressed). Conversely, reiki treats both the injury and the emotional distress that it causes without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. You're spared the expense of prescription drugs and the potentially harmful or unpleasant side effects that often accompany them.

A Three-Pronged Approach
The clients who requested reiki suffered from conditions ranging from herniated discs to sports injuries to chronic headaches. I suggested integrating trigger point therapy and massage into the treatment as  well. Most chronic pain sufferers experience muscle spasms and/or muscle contracture or shortening of the muscles and tendons in and around a  specific injury. Sometimes called neuromuscular therapy or myotherapy,  trigger point therapy targets the pain by applying direct pressure to the sites of tenderness or ‘hot spots’. Maintaining pressure on the hot spots for several seconds allows the muscle to release toxins and encourages the flow of fresh blood and oxygen, which allows the muscle  to heal. Combining reiki, massage and trigger point therapy has produced some very good results.

Case History: Client A
Client A was in a car accident 20 years ago and had an old back injury that never completely healed. Recently the pain had increased to  shooting pains down the front of the thighs to the knees. Client A had an MRI that confirmed the existence of herniated discs in the lower lumber (low back). Client A is generally a very active person and had  found that their debilitating condition made them feel fearful of the pain, to the point of having a special routine for getting out of bed. This also made them feel depressed. Client A was taking Bextra, a medication for pain and inflammation on a daily basis.

Treatment: Weekly 1 hour visits. 35-40 minutes of massage and  trigger point therapy, 20-25 minutes of reiki on affected area, which included the site of injury and followed the referred pain down to the hips. Occasional reiki treatment began at the head to give additional relief from stress.

Results after first treatment: The shooting pain in the thighs vanished almost completely. The pain had been at a 10 on the scale of  0-10 and it had decreased to a 5. Client A still had a little bit of  shooting pain on the left side, but it was much more manageable. Client A was able to start moving their body a lot more and subsequently was feeling happier and hopeful that they could recover. They were able to reduce Bextra to an as needed basis.

Results after third treatment: The shooting pain is gone, now the  pain is localized at the point of injury. Even so, Client A has been  able to start a light workout.

Results after six weeks: Client A is almost pain free. They have some tightness in the left hip. Client A had a relapse after one of their first strenuous workouts, but the pain never returned to the front legs. Client A is now able to do their workout at full speed and is slowly increasing the amount of exercise. No longer taking Bextra.

Results after two months: Client A is pain free and has complete mobility.
By the time some of my clients come for treatment, they have passed through countless doctor's offices and nearly lost hope. Many have tried drug therapy or cortisone shots. Western medicine has failed to grant them any lasting relief. Compounding the problem, physicians who find themselves unable to successfully treat these patients often wind up  attributing the ailments to psychological rather than physical causes and recommend psychotherapy.

The therapies I've described above do not offer an immediate fix but when performed on weekly or bi-weekly basis over a few weeks can greatly reduce and potentially eliminate pain. The older the injury, the longer it may require treatment, although, even in these instances the first three treatments tend to produce palpable relief. Experiencing those  kind of results can make all of the difference in the world. Finally,  these patients have good news to report and, most importantly, they  discover a reason to believe that they can make a full recovery.

Laura Sadler is a Certified Massage Therapist and Reiki Master in Los Angeles. She also has a B.A. in Psychology from UC Irvine. Laura became a healing arts practitioner after living with chronic pain due to sports injuries. It was through her experiences in healing herself that she learned she has a special  gift and true compassion for those dealing with pain or stress.