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Should I See a Chiropractor or Massage Therapist?

It depends on the condition. Patients often minimize their condition and say it is just “muscle pain” or a “pulled muscle.” In our office, we hear this all the time for conditions that are undoubtedly more complicated than a simple muscle spasm! Remember, the body creates muscle spasms to protect areas from pain or injuries. Consequently, think of a muscle spasm as a SYMPTOM of something greater.

A pulled muscle from a tough workout or mild upper back tension from too much computer work or poor sleep does happen. Conditions that are mild to moderate and just started are usually somewhat easy to treat with massage alone. If a condition has been lasting longer than several days, has radiating pain, or is sharp with movement, see a chiropractor before attempting a massage. Frequently, the muscle tension is due to more complex conditions such as osteoarthritis, disc bulges, or even residual symptoms from whiplash or old injuries. We recommend a consultation with a chiropractor before trying massage therapy if your pain is severe, sharp, or has a sudden onset.


The chiropractor is trained to conduct a thorough exam to see if the patient is a good candidate for massage therapy or chiropractic care. An examination can help develop a diagnosis, assess the severity of the condition, monitor the progress of care, and determine the best treatment options available. Knowing the cause of the pain can aid in creating a plan to prevent the same pain from happening again and again. Additionally, the key to success with any therapeutic intervention is to introduce the therapy at a level the patient can tolerate. A carefully constructed plan can help make treatment a success.

Chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage therapy can be aggravating to areas of the body that are in pain. With some severe conditions, it is important to start care slowly to minimize the introduction of inflammation and further irritation. It is often advantageous to add gentle chiropractic adjustments and therapies such as kinesiology tape or interferential therapy to minimize pain before incorporating therapeutic massage. Therapeutic massage is designed to decrease muscle spasm and reduce scar tissue which can sometimes lead to increased soreness. In these cases, it is important to reduce the pain to a manageable level before starting massage therapy. The good news is that massage can be added to most treatment plans once the severe pain is managed and is very effective for many types of pain.


In short, massage therapy, physical therapy, and chiropractic treatments can effectively manage many conditions. In cases where the pain is acute or severe, it is important to populate a working diagnosis. A doctor, such as a chiropractor, is trained to formulate a working diagnosis that helps best predict the response to care for each patient. A trial of conservative care is a great way to see if the condition can be managed with therapy, or if it is time to make an appointment with an orthopedist or get advanced imaging such as an MRI or CT.

With any condition, a plan to decrease pain should be followed by a plan to prevent future episodes of the same condition from returning.




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