Registered Massage Therapist or Chiropractor?
When people are injured or in pain, they often ask whether they should see a chiropractor, a registered massage therapist (RMT), or both, and which one first. The answer to this isn’t always straightforward because it depends on many factors such as the area(s) affected and comfort with the practitioners.
Who Should I Ask?
Any experienced practitioner will let you know if they can help and if not who you should see. Local RMT and Hockey Canada team massage therapist Jamie Johnston says, “If by 5-6 treatments someone isn’t getting the results I think they should have I often consider referring to a chiro.” I agree with what Jamie says and if someone isn’t better within that initial block of time I also consider the need for alternate therapy. The key is to find someone you trust and to have open dialogue. This allows for periodic check-ins to ensure progress is being made and whether continued care, another approach, or co-managing with another practitioner is best. It will also foster trust, which has the additional benefit of deeper relaxation, something beneficial to almost all medical care.
What’s the Difference and Which Works Better?
To put it simply, massage deals with muscles and chiropractic deals with nerves via the bones of the spine. Massage appointments are longer and generally more relaxing where chiropractic appointments tend to be quick and results can be almost immediate. There are certainly times when either chiropractic or massage will be the ideal choice: for instance, when someone’s spine is misaligned or jammed and nerves are being affected, it’s likely they will get better results with chiropractic even though muscles may be in spasm. However, if someone has overused or strained muscles, massage will likely provide greater relief even if spinal joints are misaligned. In my experience, chiro and massage work well independently but often better in conjunction with one another. Muscles and soft tissues which are not functioning properly can inhibit the body’s natural healing response just as much as ill affected nerves. It is not uncommon for me to refer a patient to an RMT because I feel that muscles are negatively affecting spinal health; there are also times when, if a problem with the spine and nervous system are not addressed, no amount of massage will fix the problem.
Does Personal Preference Matter?
One healthcare discipline isn’t necessarily better than another and it often depends on what the patient prefers and the style of the practitioner. I’ve seen many patients who have tried chiropractic before with little or no success, but for some reason we were able to get them better. However, I’ve also had patients where we weren’t the right fit but another chiropractor with a different approach was able to help.
What Would Be Best?
Both chiropractic and massage are great for health and not just getting people more functional and/or out of pain. Both are well-established professions with long and well documented track records of helping people heal. A growing number of people are using massage and/or chiropractic care regularly to keep their health and life where they like to be. I encourage you to try them both and if you come across a practitioner that doesn’t work for you, to keep looking until you find one who does.
I hope this helps clarify things for you!
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