Massage vs chiropractic or both?

Massage Therapy at Sonic Chiropractic

massage therapy, chiropractic care, Seattle chiropractor,

What is the Most Effective Way to Treat Chronic Pains?

Dr. Ted Steffen

It is no surprise that almost all chiropractic offices have massage therapists on staff. These services work together to get you doing the things you love!

The chiropractic care will help work the underlying spinal alignment and the massage therapy will help with the more superficial muscles. They are intertwined physiologically – so it is literally impossible to only work on one of them. As a chiropractor I am often asked, “Doc, is this a muscle problem or is this a spine problem?” Of course the answer is always, “Both!” You cannot have one without the other. It is important to remember that muscles are controlled by nerves. An injury that has destroyed a nerve to the muscle (think Christopher Reeves) will basically turn the muscle off completely. It will weaken and atrophy very quickly.

Muscles that are tight and in spasm are actually being activated by nerves that sense injury. In the spine the most common cause of that is unhealthy and abnormal alignment.

When you get a deep tissue massage your therapist will seek out muscles that have adhesions and scar tissue (knots) and with pressure they will release the tissue. What is less obvious about a more medically oriented massage is that they will also balance out the muscle tone between the front and the back and the left and the right. You can think of your muscle systems as a big ‘circus tent’ wrapped around the spinal structure. When all of the muscle tone is balanced between the planes then the tent is balanced. The most common imbalance we see is then the front chest muscles go through permanent shortening (constricture) and the muscles in the upper back are over extended.  Well trained massage therapists will work on both the scar tissue and help balance out muscle tone to achieve equilibrium around the spinal structure.  Massage therapists will also often give their clients recommendations for stretches, exercises and ergonomic strategies that work with the muscle findings.

It is often believed that getting a spinal adjustment immediately after a massage is best as the muscle is relaxed. I have not necessarily found that to be the case, although if that is a patient preference then there is nothing wrong with the strategy. In fact, counter intuitively, I have found that spinal joints do not make as much popping or release noise immediately following a massage. I have no idea why that is just that I have noticed it in the 20 years I have been doing chiropractic treatments side by side with massage therapy. I suggest to patients that if that is something that intuitively seems good then go for it but if there is a scheduling challenge, i.e. often massage therapy appointments might have availability different from the chiropractic do not lock yourself out of a good chiropractic adjustment or a massage therapy treatment just because one is not available at exactly the same time as the other.

We offer online scheduling for the massage therapy – it is very easy to find the times and therapists that work best for your schedule. For chiropractic you do have to work with the front desk to get the time scheduled that works best for your schedule. My advice is to get the chiropractic scheduled and in your calendar and then work the massage therapy around using our super easy to use online scheduling system. Please be aware that the scheduling system for massage therapy is a ‘closed’ system. You do need to be invited through email by our front desk, in order to get the invitation you must complete all the proper documentation and requirements – please contact them at for more details.

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