Clients seek massage therapy for many reasons, and one of the most challenging for a therapist is chronic pain following surgery.
It’s a tough spot – here we are dealing with tissues that have had a direct surgical intervention – moved, touched, cut or compressed. We also are dealing with structures altered when the body’s healing response forms scar tissue and adhesions.
Massage therapy, thankfully, is low-tech when it comes to post-surgery pain. When I first began treating clients for this type of problem, I referred to muscular patterns of pain and overlapped them with “dermatome” patterns – meaning areas where disturbed nerves can cause pain.
Often stabbing or sharp pains can come from nerves that have developed adhesions or stress patterns from scar tissue pulling on them. These changes may occur far above the area where pain is felt. The massage is always gentle and soothing, following the course of nerves through plexuses and their redundant branches.
Another technique is pain mapping – each time the client returns we again map the pain areas to see if they have changed. If has altered or lessened the pain then the areas treated may be part of the disturbance.
Abdominal breathing is also an important part of these recovery massages. The diaphragm is inhibited by pain and restoring its function – awakening the “bellows” of the body allows for gentle stretching of muscles, organs and nerves. Ultimately diaphragm breathing is the gentlest massage of all.