Should I see my Chiropractor? We get this question a lot from clients and the answer is most always YES!! Chiropractic care and massage treat different areas of the body, but support each other (and YOU!!) really well. In this blog we’ll talk about the differences between the two, when you would choose one over the other and how to best schedule your chiropractic adjustments and massage to get the most out of both.
So, what’s the difference? In short, massage treats muscles and chiropractic care treats bones, more specifically, your joints. They both act upon the nervous system, but chiropractic care addresses the nervous system more directly.
Let’s do a quick anatomy lesson. You have your brain and spinal cord, this is your Central Nervous System or the CNS. Your nerves exit the spine in-between your vertebrae, the small bones that make up your spine. Once they exit your spine, they become a part of the Peripheral Nervous System or PNS. Your nerves control EVERY action in your body. From digestion to breathing, to your heart rate and every movement you make is governed by your nervous system.
You can think about the nerves that exit your spine like a hose. If you put pressure on a hose, the water can’t flow through. The same with your nerves. If you have a vertebrae out of place, it is putting pressure on a nerve, the water, in this case information and energy, can’t get to the area(s) that it governs. This can show up in your body as pain, weakness, disjunction, slow digestion, headaches. You get the idea. In the simplest explaination, Chiropractors adjust your vertebra (and many other joints) but specifically your vertebra to remove pressure from the spinal nerves so that information and energy can flow to all of the areas of your body so that every system and muscle can perform at their very best.
Massage, like I said earlier, treats muscles. Muscle pain happens due to misuse, disuse or overuse. In other words, using a muscle incorrectly, not using a muscle enough, or using a muscle too much.
Lets think of our muscles like factories. If the factory is used incorrectly the parts get worn out quicker and don’t work as well. If that factory sits too long without use, it gets rusty, doesn’t move as well and dust and debris build up. If the factory is used too much, there is more waste that is produced and accumulated. Misuse, disuse and overuse. When a muscle is used incorrectly, often to compensate for muscles that aren’t working, it can get tight from being pulled in the wrong direction and often these muscles develop trigger points. These are areas that are “turned off” (i.e not working or numb) that when touched “turn on” really fast (i.e pain, spasm, etc.) Typically what happenes after a muscle has been misused for a period of time it will get exhausted and stop working as effectively. This is where disuse happens. So now you have more muscles that aren’t working the way they should be. When a muscle has been overused it’s like a factory working overtime that hasn’t hired more janitors to manage the waste accumulation. As a muscle contracts over and over again, it produces waste, often referred to as lactic acid or other types of metabolic waste. When this waste accumulates faster than your blood circulation can take it away, you get a build up of this waste and your muscles start to feel sore. If you don’t do anything about this early on (i,e massage, stretching, etc.) overtime, this area will form an adhesion in the muscle tissue, more commonly known as a “knot”. These knots can interfere with the function of the muscle, either moving the overuse into misuse or disuse. In any of these situations the flow of blood, nutrients and oxygen are greatly reduced to the muscle.
Massage increases blood flow, helping to eliminate any metabolic waste build up in the muscle tissue. By increasing blood flow and compressing muscle tissue, massage can get rid of those “knots” that you feel in your muscle. Massage therapists that have been trained in Trigger Point Therapy can address those areas that we talked about earlier that seemed to have turned off but when touched turn on really fast.
So you can see that Chiropractic care and Massage both treat pain and muscle dysfunction, so when do you know which one to go to? Well, some of that is personal preference. I’ve had massage clients that would never go to a Chiropractor and met Chiropractic patients that would never come in for a massage. You know your body best, and if you’ve seen a Chiropractor and Massage Therapist for a while, you probably know what pain needs what treatment. Chiropractic is preferable when you feel like something is “out” or “stuck”. Massage is going to be better when something is sore and stiff. Non muscle related issues such as digestion issues, headaches that don’t involve muscle tension and issues with memory and focus are going to respond better to Chiropractic care. Massage is going to be beneficial for repetitive use injuries, headaches that involve muscle tension and pain, knots and sore muscles. Both Chiropractic care and Massage are great for whiplash injuries, stress and general improved health and wellbeing.
The other question that we get a lot is who should I see first? Chiropractic care and then massage or massage and then Chiropractic care? It is a good question and everyone is different. If your Chiropractor has trouble adjusting you because your are too stiff or your muscles are too tight, then it’s usually best to get your massage before your adjustment. Either the same day or one day apart. If you have a hard time “holding” your adjustment, meaning your Chiropractor can adjust you, but you feel “out” a day or two later, then getting adjusted and then getting your massage a day or two later can help you hold your adjustment longer.
Massage and Chiropractic care go hand in hand, literally and figuratively. They are better together and commonly we see clients get better faster when they are using both techniques.