Chiropractic and massage therapy work very well together, and it’s apparent by so many massage therapists sharing office space or being hired by chiropractors to work in their clinics. In our office, we focus primarily on the spine (although we do adjustments on the arms and legs as needed). The rationale for focusing on the spine is that it’s the foundational piece of allowing your nervous system to work as well as it can.
When someone comes into our office complaining of back pain due to muscle spasm, where they feel it’s “just a muscle problem,” it’s not just a muscle problem. The spine works with the muscles and nerves to create these symptoms you’re experiencing. The chiropractic doctor will find the area of the spine that’s misaligned, stuck, or both and restore it’s normal movement and position via a chiropractic adjustment. Once the vertebra moves back into place, the nerve will start functioning better and the surrounding muscles will relax.
In some cases, though, the muscles need a little extra help to speed the recovery process. By having a massage therapist go in and work on the muscles, they will tend to relax further and longer, allowing the adjustment to hold its place longer. The longer the vertebra is able to maintain its normal position and functioning, the better for the patient’s healing and pain levels.
Some patients ask whether or not they should get the massage before or after the chiropractic adjustment, but I’ve not seen that it makes a major difference either way. In theory, if you got the massage before the adjustment, you’d be more relaxed for the adjustment and be able to get a better adjustment on that visit. I have recommended a pre-adjustment massage a few times for patients that are just so rigid that we’re having difficulty getting anything to move, but this is rare.
The post-adjustment massage can help the muscles relax further and allow the adjustment to last longer, but this is just the theory. I don’t believe any studies on this exist, but patients have reported back to me that this is their preferred timeline for getting their massage/adjustment combination.
Massage, chiropractic care, drinking water, eating right, exercise… are all good things for you and all good things that need to be done consistently to get the best results. A massage before or after and adjustment is less important than how often you’re getting that adjustment and how consistently you get a massage. Chiropractic and massage therapy are both beneficial to your long term physical and mental health and can work well as complementary treatments.
The Massage Therapy Foundation works to improve the qualifications of therapists and the profession overall through research. More information can be found on their website.