Should You Get a Massage Before or After Chiropractic Adjustment?

Should You Get a Massage Before or After Chiropractic Adjustment?

Has your doctor prescribed chiropractic massage therapy? Are you wondering if chiropractic care with massage therapy could help heal your injuries?  Depending on your situation, you probably have questions regarding both chiropractic care and massage therapy, including:

  • What are the pros and cons of chiropractic massage therapy before or after a chiropractic adjustment?
  • Should I receive my massage before or after chiropractic adjustments?
  • Can I see the chiropractor and have a massage on the same day?
  • Are both practices safe?
  • How does massage therapy affect my body?
  • Are there any side effects of chiropractic massage?

You might have additional questions, but the above are the most commonly asked. Perhaps you have read stories about chiropractic massage therapy and wondered if there were any massage therapists near you in Anchorage and Juneau? We would like to spend a few minutes introducing you to chiropractic massage, answering some of your questions, and look at the pros and cons of this type of treatment.

What Is the Connection Between Chiropractic Care and Massage Therapy?

While the body consists of several systems, chiropractors and massage therapists both focus on the muscular-skeletal system. This area includes the spine, soft tissues, muscles, tendons, and other connective tissue. By manipulating these areas, the body is stimulated to heal itself. Chiropractors focus on the spine and joints in the body. Massage therapists focus on the muscles and connective tissues. Since muscles connect and surround the spine and joints, it’s plain to see how the two therapies mesh well together, much like socks and shoes or hands and gloves. 

Muscles have the capacity to tighten, tendons can shorten or become irritated and inflamed. These can pull the spine and other joints out of position. Chiropractors can perform adjustments to put the vertebra and joints back in position, but muscles that need to be relaxed and/or tendons that need stretching can pull the joints out of place again. This is where chiropractic massage comes into play. By relaxing the muscles and stretching connective tissue, the adjustments your chiropractor makes will stay in position longer.

Should You Get Your Massage Before or After Your Adjustments?

Typically, most people will benefit from getting a massage before their chiropractic adjustment. The massage loosens up the muscles surrounding the spine which can make the adjustment easier and more effective. It can also help to alleviate some of the minor discomforts some people feel during or directly after an adjustment. 

With that being said, every person is different. Your particular circumstances and preferences may dictate that you get an adjustment first. It ultimately comes down to a decision made by you and your doctor of chiropractic.

To give you a better general idea of what may work best for you, let’s look at a few of the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Receiving a massage before your adjustment can help to relax the body so that adjustments are easier to perform.
  • For some patients, a massage first helps to alleviate minor discomforts that may happen after an adjustment.

Cons:

  • A massage first may not be ideal if you will immediately go back to a stressful job where the tension will reappear in your back.
  • In some cases, if you have neck or lower back pain, an adjustment first and massage after may be the best way to go.

This is why we recommend that you discuss your lifestyle, exercise, and work habits with your chiropractor. They are professionals who can determine when you should receive the massage in order to get the best results.

Can I Get a Chiropractic Adjustment and a Massage the Same Day?

Yes, it’s completely safe— and sometimes even recommended— to get an adjustment and a massage on the same day. Some people do them back-to-back, taking advantage of the fact that the two are done in the same building.

Other people prefer to wait a few hours between the massage and the adjustment, especially if they don’t have the appropriate window of time to do both in the same visit. Still, others like to space them out more, which is perfectly fine, too. Again, this ultimately comes down to your preferences, schedule, and what your doctor of chiropractic thinks is the most effective for you. 

Is Chiropractic Care as Safe as Chiropractic Massage?

Yes! Chiropractic care is one of the safest, non-invasive, drug-free therapies in the world. This isn’t to say that chiropractic care, like all medical treatments, has no reported adverse effects, but the number of incidences is very small.

Almost all patients report that they feel a tremendous sense of relief after their chiropractic adjustments and even more report feelings of well-being and relaxation after their chiropractic massage.

In fact, chiropractic care is safer than taking over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers, according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology and the American College of Cardiology Foundation, who state in this paper that NSAIDs increase the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events.

A Brief History of Massage Therapy

assage Therapy

The use of massage as therapy goes back for centuries. This treatment can trace its roots to the ancient medicinal practices of Egypt, China, and India. Even the Father Of Modern Medicine, Hippocrates, described massage therapy as “the art of rubbing.”

During the Renaissance, this type of healing therapy reached Europe and in the 1850’s, a pair of American doctors, who had spent time in Sweden studying other forms of medicine and healing, returned to America with what is now called The Swedish Massage.

Types of Massage

While almost everyone knows about the classic Swedish Massage, few people know that there is a substantial number of different massage techniques, including a few that are a mixture of massage techniques. 

Chiropractic massage techniques will vary from clinic to clinic and even from person to person, depending on what type of massage will work best for the individual.

The most used massage techniques are:

  • Swedish Massage: Sometimes called the Relaxation Massage. This is the most common type of massage as it is gentle and provides a feeling of deep relaxation.
  • Pregnancy Massage: This is a Swedish Massage but with a few changes to accommodate the woman’s growing belly.
  • Sports Massage: For those who live an active lifestyle, are involved in heavy exercise or have physically demanding jobs, or for athletes, the sports massage helps to keep muscles strong and flexible, improving blood circulation to promote healing.
  • Deep Tissue Massage: This massage uses slower strokes and goes against the grain, if you will, and uses firmer pressure to reach the connective tissue. For those with very tight muscles, chronic pain, or for those with injuries, this intense type of massage often leaves a person feeling a bit sore afterward.
  • Hot Stone and Aromatherapy Massage: This technique can be combined or performed separately. These are basically Swedish Massages done with scented essential oils and/or with hot stones placed in certain positions to release tension. These rounded stones are then used to massage areas of the body. 
  • Trigger Point Massage: Trigger points are actually muscle knots that are often tender to the touch. This type of massage is common in Chiropractic Massage therapy and work well for sciatica, low back pain, migraine headaches, and carpal tunnel.
  • Thai Massage: This is more of an invigorating massage, rather than relaxing, as the therapist will stretch, pull, and compress the body quite vigorously.
  • Shiatsu Massage: The word Shiatsu means finger pressure. In this massage, thumb or finger pressure is put on specific acupuncture meridians to release blocked energy.
  • Chair Massage: You often see this massage in shopping malls, where people are seated in chairs with their face in a special pillow. This type of massage is also done in the massage chairs you find in public places, such as malls or outside movie theaters.
  • Therapeutic Massage: This is the most common type of massage you will experience at your chiropractor’s office. This involves several different types of massage, depending on the client’s needs. Stretching, hot packs or cold packs might also be involved.

What are the Benefits of Massage Therapy?

Regardless of the type of massage you receive, the benefits of regular massage are many.

✓  Reduction in stress

✓  Deep feelings of well-being and relaxation (the exception being Thai or Shiatsu massage)

✓  Improvements in blood circulation

✓  Quicker healing from improved blood flow

✓  Improved range of motion and flexibility

✓  Reduction in pain

✓  Deeper, more restful sleep

✓  Improved mood

✓  Fewer episodes of depression

✓  Improved immune function

Chiropractic massage therapy, especially, offers healing and benefits for reducing or preventing muscle pain. 

The University of Miami Medical School Touch Research Division has performed over 100 studies proving the benefits of regular massage therapy, with a few of these studies showing benefits for those with anorexia, lower blood pressure readings, fewer PMS symptoms and more.

What is the Difference Between a Spa Massage and Chiropractic Massage

When you think of a spa massage, what comes to mind? Scented candles? Zen music? Low lights and perhaps a tabletop fountain?

A spa massage is a wonderful way to relax and feel good. Taking care of oneself with these types of treatments is important to our self-esteem and image. Stress is more harmful than we realize and spa massages are a great way to relieve stress.

However, spa massages differ greatly from chiropractic massage, which is overseen or performed by a trained doctor of chiropractic medicine. Chiropractors have years of education regarding the spine, muscles, and biology. Their training allows them to diagnose and then focus on your problem areas. The doctor will then direct the therapist as to the type of massage you need, including other treatments you might require to help heal injuries.

If you are simply overworked, are on vacation, are looking for some self-care and “me” time or need stress relief, a spa massage is right up your alley.

If you are in pain, have low back, neck, shoulder or joint pain and need relief, if you have suffered an injury or have been told that you need to see a physical therapist, or if your doctor has actually prescribed massage as part of your treatment plan, then you should see a chiropractic massage therapist.

Schedule an Appointment and Receive

FREE One-Hour Massage Certificate

That’s right! Receive a certificate for a free one-hour massage with our highly-trained and licensed massage therapists for use after your first appointment. Use it yourself, or give it to a friend.

Are There Risks to Chiropractic Massage?

As with chiropractic care, massage therapy has a long history of being safe and effective. There are a few cautions you should be aware of, but the number of serious injuries reported is quite small.

Things to be aware of and that you should talk to your doctor and massage therapist about include:

  • Any allergies you might have, such as to latex or certain massage oils. For example, if you have a nut allergy, you should tell your therapist so they avoid using sweet almond oil.
  • If you are taking Warfarin or if you have a bleeding disorder or low blood platelet counts, tell your massage therapist and avoid vigorous massages
  • If you think you are pregnant, tell your chiropractor and your massage therapist
  • If you have a blood clot, open would, or skin infection, tell your therapist so they can avoid that area
  • If you suffer from weakened bones due to any health issue, such as osteoporosis or if you have had surgery recently, talk to your doctor and tell your chiropractor and therapist
  • Although most cancer patients can benefit from massage therapy, consult with your oncologist first and tell your massage therapist, and your chiropractor, about your condition.

Does Chiropractic Massage Have Side Effects?

The good news here is that there are almost no side effects. This holistic means of helping the body heal has very minor issues that might include:

  • Allergic reaction: As mentioned above, if you have allergies, tell your massage therapist so you don’t experience an allergic reaction to certain essential oils, latex, or massage oils.
  • Temporary soreness in certain areas
  • Possible swelling or minor bruising
  • Discomfort

There are no other known side effects, other than feelings of deep relaxation!
Weighing the Pros & Cons of Massage Therapy after Chiropractic Treatment in Wasilla Infographics

Are There Other Things I Should Know About Chiropractic Massage?

There are a few other points we would like to make regarding chiropractic massage, such as:

  1. Please don’t use massage therapy as your sole means of health care. Chiropractic care and massage therapy go hand in hand to provide you with terrific healing techniques and benefits, but this won’t change the need for other types of medical care, including testing, vaccinations, and prescriptions for serious health issues.
  2. Please tell your chiropractor and therapists about any medical conditions you might have, as well as any prescriptions you are taking. They might suggest supplements to improve your health, but interactions might occur if you don’t disclose your medications.
  3. If you are using any other therapies, such as acupuncture, please inform your chiropractor and therapist.
  4. If you are considering chiropractic care or chiropractic massage but aren’t 100% sure if it is right for you, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with the chiropractor, massage therapist, and/or your regular doctor.
  5. You should also not hesitate to ask your chiropractic massage therapist about their training and experience.

What are the Pros and Cons of All This?

A brief overview of the pros and cons of chiropractic massage, both before and after treatment, and chiropractic care in general:

Pros of Chiropractic Massage

✓  Chiropractic massage has multiple benefits including relief from insomnia, headaches, digestive issues, stress, TMJ pain, and much more

✓  Improvement in the range of motion

✓  Faster healing

✓  Lower blood pressure

✓  Improved immune function

✓  Improved blood circulation

✓  Feelings of well-being and relaxation

✓  Improved mood

✓  Fewer PMS symptoms

✓  Fewer episodes of depression

✓  Improved energy levels

As you can see, the pros of chiropractic massage therapy are numerous!

Cons of Chiropractic Massage

✓  Minor side effects including allergic reactions to some essential oils or massage oils

✓  Discomfort in problem areas

✓  Possible soreness or light bruising (especially in the case of deep tissue massage)

✓  Requires more than 1 visit

This was a shortlist! Chiropractic massage is good for what ails you. Actually, if nothing ails you, it’s good for you anyway!

Pros of Chiropractic Care

✓  Reduction or elimination of pain in the spine, neck, and joints

✓  Improved sleep

✓  Less stress

✓  Improved nervous system function

✓  Increased feelings of well-being

✓  Reduction in symptoms and pain of sciatica, fibromyalgia, bursitis, carpal tunnel, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and more

✓  Improved range of motion

✓  Relief of prenatal discomfort and symptoms

✓  Relief or reduction in migraines and headaches

✓  Lower inflammation levels

✓  Safe and effective pain relief without medication

✓  Offers advice on exercise or workout routines

✓  Offers advice about supplements or other natural holistic treatments

Cons of Chiropractic Care

✓  Requires more than 1 visit

✓  Not always covered by insurance

✓  Discomfort

✓  Not suitable for some patients (cancer patients, joint fractures, bone cancer, etc)

✓  Sore muscles

✓  Feelings of dizziness or vertigo

✓  Chiropractors cannot prescribe medications if needed

Chiropractic massage is more than just a feel-good type of indulgence. If you want a powerful tool that can address current health and emotional issues that is holistic and non-invasive, you would be wise to talk to your doctor or chiropractor about the multiple benefits that chiropractic massage, especially in combination with chiropractic care, can bring to your life. 

Schedule an Appointment, Receive a One-Hour Massage Certificate!

That’s right! Receive a certificate for a free one-hour massage with one of our highly-trained, professional, and licensed massage therapists for use after your first appointment. You can use it yourself, or give it to one of your family or friends for them to use!

Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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