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Painful muscle massage

Kris-NYKKris-NY Posts: 2,207
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I've had neck and shoulder pain for 6 months now. The PTs say that the muscles in my shoulders and upper back are incredibly hard. I am on Skelaxin 300 3x a day for almost two months now. I get deep tissue massage twice a week for several months. I did one set of trigger point injections.

What I'm wondering is if anyone has experience with this. The theory is that the muscles are guarding the source of my pain so they have to break up the hard tense muscles so we find out what is really happening.

Even with all of these treatments my pain is still there. I am sure it is much less because if I am late with a dose I know it right away and at night I can't sleep.

Any thoughts or comments are appreciated.


  • Different massages? My massage therapist tried five different massages to break up my tight muscles. Even mixed them together a few times,but he finally started doing active release therapy on me,he said it was a very aggressive massage but i'm starting to see signs of improvement since he's started it. The progress is slow but its still there.He's feeling good about it and is hopeful that its the massage thats going to really help me. Good luck and just keep trying different ones,there has to be one that will work.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    the muscle in the upper back are the Minor and Major Rhomboid muscle. It is one of the most difficult muscles to keep in control after you have some problems.
    I've been dealing with Rhomboid muscle problems along with my Thoracic disc problems for close to 10 years now.
    None of the standard treatments really got to the bottom of it. Finally, I went to a specialist in pure Thai Deep Tissue Massage. The first couple of treatments, it was the most painful experience I ever had. I continued these treatments once a week for about six months before I started to see some results. The Rhomboid muscle was hard as wood and it took constant treatment to make it more pliable. Once it became pliable, it relieved some of the stress on my thoracic discs, which in turn reduce some of my pain.
    Thats the good news... Problem, is that was over three years ago and I see go for the DTM at least twice a month. If I stop going or develop a flare up, the rhomboid muscle will quickly go back to its hard non-pliable state, which in turn causes more thoracic disc problems.

    So, its sort of a never ending battle. But its one well worth doing.. Without this treatment, I would still be using a cane and hardly moving around at all
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Following on from Ron's post,especially the last line, I'm in the same boat.
    For me, remedial massage has helped loosen up the back muscles and stopped my headaches.
    I started weekly, now down to 2-3 weekly after 5 months.
    Easy to relapse by doing too much, and it doesn't seem to cure the muscle problem in the short term, but perhaps it will in the longer term.
    I actually think my back muscles will be a mess for ever, with the regular massage enabling me to cope reasonably well.
    I'm 64, so wearing out, as my Dr. is wont to remind me!
    For you, the muscles themselves are probably the problem.
    A lot of people under estimate the pain that they can cause.
    However, tight muscles can cause spinal problems, and spinal problems can inflame muscles.
    Either way, the muscles need desperate attention.
    It took my masseuse several months to break down the outer muscle layer and get to the inner ones, so allow LOTS of time and treatment, but this is also your best option.
    Take some muscle relaxers regularly as well, also hot baths.
    You may not be able to be cured, but you can be made more functional and in less pain, with proper massage.
  • They said this would take months. Guess that isn't a joke. I'm just wondering what is going to pay for this after the 3 years of no-fault is over?

    Is there a diagnosis that goes with this? I didn't hear much mention of muscle relaxing drugs in your responses. Do they help and which ones if they do? The skelaxin made a big difference at first and probably still is but I am not sure if there is something more.

    I'm also thinking that maybe I should try to find someone who is strictly a massage therapist closer to home. If this is a lifetime treatment (I'm only 44) then it needs to be more convienient.

    And since I forgot - thank you for taking the time to respond. The encouragement is important to me.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    Ours does not cover the Deep Tissue Massage treatment even though its via a prescription. We pay $85 per visit, so it gets kinda of expensive. But how can you put a price on being able to walk?
    You always find a way
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    Trying to understand the different type of massage therapies, how they are used, what they are for, who administers them, etc can be confusing at times.
    I normally do not post URL's outside of Spine-Health. However, when there is a subject of importance and it is not covered here, I will look outside.
    Here is a very good breakdown of the various massage disciplines:

    Understanding Massage

    Thai Massage
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thx Ron ; )
    Im guessing mine was more like the "Thai". His motto is "Combination of the East & West", Oriental guy, real hard to understand his accent. He's known in town as the "Healing Hands", Healing Therapy Treatment.
    Anyway, its been scary since surgery because surgeon told me that it would take several weeks to heal from surgery, given no complications. It's been - 6 mos. Would be safe to assume I had a complication and it was a "frozen muscle". Wish the "INS. PAID" physical therapists knew all about what's going on in the human body, but I guess they only teach you so much in school. That's not very beneficial. Waste of time!!!
    Hope this has helped someone out there!!!
    O:) hugs ev1
  • I'm right there with you. 6 months post op. Major pain was in my upper shoulder and into the my back. MAJOR! At 16 wks post op, I went to PT for ultra sound & tens unit, & also got massages. Not much relief. A nurse friend of my recommended me to this guy called "The Healing Hands". He's been studying massage therapy & practicing for 15 yrs. He said my muscle was "frozen" - the one on top of shoulder. He explained because of that, my ligaments (goole that word) and tendons were causing all the pain. He also said fat cells were trapped all in my rib cage, causing pain too. All this is after-affects from surgery, not uncommon, but must be treated asap. Drugs only mask it. People come from all over to get trmnts from him. Deep layer tissue pressure massage. I have only been one time & he said it may take up to three sessions, $50 ea. He "unfroze" that muscle two days ago & I feel awesome. My ligament now can heal, & everything else that went wrong because of that frozen muscle. I suggest that you find someone who SPECIALIZES in this type of trmnt. It was the answer to my prayers.
    many hugs to you & ev1 else
    >:D< >:D< >:D<
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    and other alternative treatments on Spine-Health is at:

    Alternative Treatments
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • thank you Ron - looking forward to checking that out
    appreciate it.... didn't know that was there to view & discuss... I'll definitely check it out....
  • As it is still seen as 'alternative' therapy, and not the proven treatment that it is, massage therapy is usually not covered by medical insurance, health care providers etc.
    Yet in many cases it is the only suitable treatment.
    No problem in getting unlimited facet injections and so on at great expense, but not a cent for the one that works.
    And don't even think of trying to get this attitude changed!
    Too much bureaucracy to fight against.
    I use OTC muscle relaxers, which also help with going to sleep (but don't keep you asleep). I use restavit.
    Getting a good sleep is vital in getting muscles treated, as it is the only time that your body relaxes.
    You can get stronger ones on prescription.
  • This topic hits on what I am suffering from. I have just started PT and she is trying to get me to move my shoulders backwards, which is almost imposible. I have not tried massage therapy, but after reading what you have all written, will start to look for a therapist in my area. I am taking zanaflex which is working better for me then skelaxin. Has anyone tried acupuncture for the muscles? Also before surgery I was seeing an osteopath, who did help me a lot with my lumbar spine, I wonder how they are with muscles?

    Wishing everyone looser muscles, and no pain,
  • I have had acupuncture for muscle spasms and although it would work to break up the knots, they would return shortly after the treatment. Sometimes the knots would not release the needles and then once they did, the area was "on fire" for quite a bit. Due to the underlying issues I have that cause the continuous spasms, I always wonder if it would have been more effective if the underlying cause were different. (I hope that makes sense) The acupuncture and attempts at massage were done by an osteopath, who was excellent and I think far more talented due to having a greater understanding of the human body. There are great massage therapists, great acupuncturists and great osteopaths. Unfortunately it is a matter of researching and finding one that can work to tailor everything to your body and specific injury.

  • Currently I get my massage as part of PT. It sounds like going to an independant massage therapist will be a problem with insurance. I wonder if this is true of all massage therapists or if this is because many are independant contractors and probably aren't in insurance networks.

    I am planning to go back to my ortho next week. His PA used to be in pain management and I am hoping he will have some opinions on what is going on. Because of the interdependence in the muscles I am wondering if this is still a shoulder issue.

    I have heard alot about acupuncture but like massage it seems to be a short lived relief requiring ongoing treatment.
  • I go for weekly deep tissue massage and sometimes it is really painful. When the therapist first started working on me he said my back felt like sheetrock. We're slowly making progress. In between massages I use a lacross ball up against the wall or a door. A lacross ball is harder then a tennis ball and gets into the muscles deeper and it doesn't slide on the wall like a tennis ball does.
  • Something doesn't make sense to me. Can it really be necessary to physically "break up" muscle tissue? It seems to me that this is just damaging the muscle. I'm not a doctor but my understanding from health class was the muscle is just a stretchy tissue in the body that contracts to move the bones in the body. If this is correct then my brain is telling these muscles to contract either for a reason or there is something misfiring in the nerves that is making them contract. So how can it be right to try to damage the muscle?
  • ugggg! some of those positions appear tough on the cervical spine. Thai massage could be contraindicated for us don't you think Ron?
  • I would be surprised if it's the Thai. From the pictures that flash on there they use a lot of yoga poses that are contraindicated for cervical spine problems. I'm certified by the American Council on Exercise in Yoga and was taught not to use those positions for my clients with neck issues. Maybe some other certifying boards allow that but I'd be surprised. I'd hate to see spine folks think that's okay. uggg that could be bad.
  • Krid-NY

    There is a lot of controversy about massage. Muscles can tense for many reasons thoughts, emotions, physical exercise and many other reasons.

    It's not the muscle that's being broken up it's the facia (connective tissue) that's is broken up so the muscle can relax. Here's a website that explains that very well.


    Hope that helps you.

  • My masseuse explained to me that the muscle is made up of long fibres, which are meant to contract and relax as required to move that part of the body.
    Knotted muscles have the fibres all crossed over each other and tangled, so that they cannot contract or relax properly.
    The massage therapy gradually undoes these knots, letting the muscle become long again.
    Muscles also have a memory, and will revert to how they were, so it takes quite a while to retrain them.
    While the massage will gradually improve the muscles, we go on doing the same old activities that cause the problems, so it goes on and on in a circle, unless we change.
    I'm also doing a light stretch/ exercise routine for about 30 minutes a day.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    up to the trained professional massage therapist. They should know if a particular massage or position is going to cause problems.

    I know the person I see has more medical knowledge of the spinal system, discs, nerves, muscles, tendons, joints and how they are all put together. I would put his knowledge up ahead of most PA's and any physical therapist. It is so important for a massage therapist to know IF they do this, what COULD it do someplace else!

    I agree with the Yoga positions, from my Pain mgt doctor, to all my PT's to my DTM person, Yoga in just about any form is out for me. There are some positions that 'might' be ok for cervical and/or lumbar problems that are not that complicated.

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Well I just don't know what to think. About a month ago I switched to my neurologists PT group because I thought he would be able to manage my PT sessions better.

    Last week he told me to call him when I got to PT. He came down and I swear he told them "start her on a light muscle building exercise program" I said I was doing that since the accident 6 months ago and he said OK lets keep doing that. WTH???

    I started this post because they were doing deep tissue massage and it HURT!! I read the links and I understand the theory now. But now I am concerned because there are two PT and two PT assistance who do the massage. And each one does a different area. So how are they retraining the muscle if everyone is doing something different??

    I am going to explore the TOS because I think that is at least part of my problem. But I am also thinking of getting a massage specialist who will be the same person each session and will have a specific written treatment plan. I can go back to my local PT for the strenghthening and believe it or not the no-fault insurance just told me the IME instructed me to do PT for 12 weeks for my shoulder surgery.

    I keep telling myself that I am my best advocate. I wish there was some medical professional who would skillfully and sucessfully guide my care but it just ain't happening!!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    Many Physical Therapists claim they do Deep Tissue Massage. I have never seen any of them that can really do it. The one Therapist that I worked with for about 4 years told me flat out, none of the physical therapy training includes getting deep tissue massage. They can get deep, but no where that a trained DTM can do.
    Besides how deep a trained person can do with DTM, they need to fully understand all parts of the body.
    I guess at this point, since I've been having DTM for almost 3 years, I can speak of what it is, what it is not and how it should be done
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Kris-NY said:

    But I am also thinking of getting a massage specialist who will be the same person each session and will have a specific written treatment plan.

    I keep telling myself that I am my best advocate. I wish there was some medical professional who would skillfully and sucessfully guide my care but it just ain't happening!!
    Good move-find a properly qualified remedial masseuse and stick with him/ her. They will get to know you and the problems, and what they have done, what works best etc.
    It's the only way. You need very specialised treatment for this sort of thing.
    I agree with your wish for a one-stop health professional. So much running around, different opinions, explaining it all again and again etc etc.
    I was very fortunate to find a pain doctor who has a very modern and holistic approach to pain management.
    Looks at your overall health and fitness, and tries to minimise drug and or medical intervention, though it is always an option.
    In my case he referred me to a clinical physiotherapist, who suggested I see a remedial masseuse, as well as doing light stretches and exercises daily.
    It was all explained very well and has worked a treat.
    It's almost what you were looking for.
  • Hi all,
    This topic is valuable to me. Physical therapy "massage" in my opinion is nothing other than a temporary help.

    The last two times that I had real massages, I ended up with migraine headaches and quit. Even though I was sitting in a massage chair, it still caused the migraines.

    However, desperation causes me to look at it again. The Seattle link that Lynn posted is super informative too, so be sure to check it out.

    You guys are awesome!
    Thanks for sharing,
  • I actually had to look at your name to be sure I wasn't commenting on one of MY OWN POSTS!
    I could have wrote your post word for word.
    I started out having my PT do mode massage on my shoulder muscle and neck muscles and now I am having my hubby continue them. And I have been doing it for a very long long LONG time. I do notice a difference but it did take a long time. Extremely painful YES, MISERABLE PAINFUL yes, but, if I let it go and not have them worked on, the muscles go back to hard, knotty demons within a week. And yes, I really do feel the devil lives in those knots and he convinces all the other muscles that it is the "in thing to do" to rebel and knot up.My insurance covered the PT visits, but does not cover massage therapy. Thus the reason why my hubby does them. I have talked with my doc and he does know that I am having Bob work on them. Of course the best situation would be to have a massage therapist do it, but as you said 85 bucks twice a week is hard to swallow. I am pretty sure my hubby is doing it right, bucause I scream and swear like a sailor just as loud as when the PT gal did it.
    I would continue if you can, because I think if you stop, they will go right back to being demons. Remember to drink LOTS of water to rehydrate beore and after- it does help. If you can have a family/friend do it for you, and your doc approves (please ask, as everyones situation is different and the last thing you want to do is cause more injury to yourself,) give it a try.
    I would highly suggest trying to be nice to the person doing it for you (screaming is OK, just not at them!) Fortunately, my hubby is a nice forgiving guy and he knows, that I know, it's not his fault that I am a mess.
    Hang in there, remember the water thing and to take your meds because they will help.
    Good luck to you-
  • Anyone that has what seems like muscle pain & you can't get any relief, should seek a professional that FULLY understands the functioning of the body parts. Exactly what Ron says above Jodi. There is no comparison to them vs the crummy PT places that you prob get sent to with your ins. co.
  • My remedial masseuse often names the muscles and other bits she works on, explaining how they link and affect each other.
    She has a very good understanding of the body, how it works, what goes wrong and how to fix it.

    As she said though, remedial massage for people like me is a lifelong maintenance need, not a fix and leave treatment.
    It is so great to be able to say what hurts, find that recognises what it is and goes straight in to fix it.

    She told me of an elderly client who was told by his doctor that he could do nothing for him, and NOT to get massage. Sensibly he ignored that bit of advice.

    Mine didn't suggest massage, but I always update him with my successes from it.
  • I'm dealing with the same severe, chronic spasms in my neck and back. I've tried oral magnesium, b12 injections, oxytocin injections, skelaxin, chiropractic, PT, infrared heat, tens unit, etc.

    My chiro sent me for an MRI and found bulging discs in the cervical spine that are most likely causing the problems. I have fibromyalgia as well, which complicates the pain, nerve, and spasm issues that I have. I'm waiting to get into a new neuro that will hopefully take me seriously this time.

    The most effective tool in the mean time has been an injection of 2cc magenesium sulfate/1cc lidocaine 1-2 times a week I also get some relief from spasms with 2-3 injections a week of oxytocin (pitocin). I take nitro pills to help improve the flow of blood into my muscles, as well.
  • Are you sensitive to touch, like some are?
    If not, why not try remedial massage.
    It doesn't have to hurt, and works wonders on getting the tight neck muscles to relax by working on the troublesome back muscles.
    Drug free too.
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