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Chiropractic

What are the differences between massage therapy and Chiropractic?

February 8th, 2023 by
Category: Chiropractic Care Health & Wellbeing Pain Posture Sciatica Spinal Health

Two images side by side of a message therapist and a Chiropractor

The most common question people ask me is: Should I see a Chiropractor or a massage therapist for the pain in my neck, shoulders back and body? Well, this answer can only be answered with another question: Why do our muscles get so tight, to begin with? 

Let’s be honest, we all do things that are not the best for our bodies, whether it’s sitting with our heads tilted down at our phones for hours, twisted up in bed with the tv off to the side, bending forward all day or at a poorly set up desk for five days a week. All of these different activities we do consistently affect our posture and cause our muscles to work far harder than they should and wreak havoc on our alignment. 

Over time, these bad habits cause the alignment of our spine to change to the infamous, head forward, hunchback type of posture most of us have grown to know. This creates tension in our chest muscles, upper trapezius (top of shoulder and neck) and can create stiffness, pain, headaches and low energy throughout our whole body. 

The more this happens, the worse our posture gets and as a result, negatively affects our body’s function. This is bad for a variety of reasons, with the worst being that the further forward your head gets the more tension you will notice in your neck, shoulders and lower back. 

So how do Chiropractors and massage therapists help fix this problem?  Which modality is best?

Well, a Chiropractor will realign your body over time to keep you in the best position possible, free up the movement in your joints, reset the curves in your spine and allow your body to sit in a posture that doesn’t contribute to the problem. This often addresses the root cause of why muscles get tight in the first place. Chiropractors do this by adjusting the joints in your spine which creates an improved function in the nervous system, retraining the brain and the body to work as well as possible together. When the head isnt stuck forward, it allows your muscles to finally relax in your body and feel the way that they should. This improvement in the function will lead to improvement in posture, energy levels and improves the way you feel. It’s that simple, well, until it isn’t. 

At times, in particularly difficult cases I have encountered, patients can have what they call a ‘muscle adhesion’ (a bunch of muscles knotted up together that just won’t release) or tightness in the facia (the layer between muscles and bones) that won’t go away. This is where a massage therapist comes in.

 A massage therapist is trained to release tension in the muscles by using a variety of different approaches. These can be releasing the muscle adhesions (knots), fascia (layer of connective tissues between the muscles and bones) or just decreasing muscle tension. The general goal, however, is to deal with the fact that the muscle is tight, not necessarily what causes them to tighten up in the first place. 

Once the muscles are released, it will be far easier for a Chiropractor to fix the root cause of the issues in your spine and continue to keep you in good health. 

Side note regarding Sciatica

We also often get asked: what about sciatica, should I see a Chiropractor or a massage therapist? As far as sciatica goes; we should first define what sciatica is to begin with. In short, it is when the Sciatic nerve (the nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of your leg to your pinky toes) gets irritated, creating a sharp, burning, prickly pain. This can happen for a variety of reasons and is best assessed by a Chiropractor rather than a massage therapist. This is due to the specialised training that Chiropractors possess regarding the nervous system. A competent Chiropractor can use both their assessment and/or imaging to tell you the best treatment pathway for your sciatica, based on on whether it is coming from muscle, spine or a different cause.

To summarise, a Chiropractor is trained to fully assess your entire body, no matter if the issue is in your neck, mid or lower back. Often these issues cause tension/muscle strain which is often a sign that the alignment, posture and function is not ideal. Once these problems are managed correctly things typically go back to a much better state. If they don’t, a massage therapist may be a really good next step (depending on the issue). These two approaches work best when used together and can be incredibly effective to help you feel and function the best that you can.  

Post by Dr. Arash Mohtadi, Chiropractor

50+

Years Combined
Experience

Average Client
Rating

100,000

Patients Visits

24

Practices Around
Australia