For decades, bracing and spinal fusion have been only treatment option for scoliosis; however, as a growing body of research sheds new light on this complex condition, patients are increasingly looking for and choosing less invasive options.
Massage therapy, in particular, has gained attention for its ability to reduce the chronic back pain that is sometimes associated with scoliosis. A skilled massage therapist “can use a combination of massage strokes, sustained pressure, positioning, and stretches to help balance the muscles of the back and body” and temporarily alleviate scoliosis symptoms, says massage therapist Jeanne Troncao.
While massage therapy for scoliosis cannot fix the underlying cause, medical research has found that it can provide temporary relief from scoliosis pain and other symptoms. There are two primary types of massage that can help: cranial-sacral therapy and deep tissue massage. Of course, there are various opinions on what kind of massage is best for scoliosis — your experience may vary.
- Cranial-sacral therapy: By gently mobilizing restricted tissue around and within the spinal column, cranial-sacral therapy helps balance the spine and improve the patient’s ability to function
- Deep tissue massage: Deep tissue work, assisted stretching, and neuromuscular therapy all help the spine relax by increasing blood flow and elongating tightened areas, which can help relieve muscular pain
“Appropriate application of cranial-sacral therapy and deep tissue massage can provide a respite for continuously over-stretched fascia and muscles, thus lessening the stress on a wrenched spinal column,” says acupuncturist Nicole Cutler. “Although not one of the treatment options for correcting this condition, massage therapy can help relieve some of the resulting back pain, shallow breathing, sciatica, headaches, and insomnia brought on by this aberrant spinal structure.”
Many patients wonder if scoliosis requires massage specifically from a chiropractor, or if a massage therapist is adequate. Although there are significant differences in the amount and level of training between a doctor of chiropractic medicine and a licensed massage therapist, qualification is based on individual skill level, experience treating patients with scoliosis, and personal interest in mastering their craft. In fact, many chiropractors hire professional massage therapists as part of their full-time staff for specialized cases requiring extensive skill and experience.
Benefits of Massage for Scoliosis Patients
Pain relief is not the only benefit of regular massage therapy. For scoliosis patients, massage offers a host of other beneficial effects that can help improve their daily lives. For example, it can promote:
- Heightened body awareness. Lack of body awareness can be a major factor in the progression of scoliosis. In one study, patients who focused on building body awareness showed improvement in their scoliosis symptoms. Massage therapy helps you attune more deeply to your body, which “will allow you to change movement habits that contribute to functional scoliosis,” Troncao said.
- Better sleep. It is often difficult for patients with scoliosis to find a comfortable sleep posture, and many suffer from insomnia as a result. One case study found that in addition to relieving pain, massage sessions twice a week improved the patient’s ability to sleep.
- Enhanced mobility. In the same study, the patient also exhibited an increased ability to conduct daily activities. That is because massage therapy augments the spine’s mobility and balances out the muscles in the back, resulting in greater functionality.
- Enriched mental health. Massage helps reduce the mind’s activity, freeing up more energy for healing. It also releases tension, which has both psychological and physical effects. In one study, patients who received scoliosis massage therapy showed immediate improvement in their mental well-being.
- Increased circulation. During massage, tense muscles are stretched, allowing blood to flow more freely throughout the body. The boost in circulation helps increase flexibility and support healing in the muscles surrounding the spine.
An Integrated Approach to Scoliosis Care
When treating scoliosis, massage therapy adds an extra tool to the patient’s toolbox, but it is not the only tool. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that the most effective treatment plans take a multi-faceted approach to managing symptoms.
While massage offers a variety of benefits, it is most effective when combined with other therapies. For example, when acupuncture is performed in conjunction with massage, “the positive results have proven to be even greater,” says the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
Natural pain relievers such as ScoliPAIN Plus — a time-released curcumin with black pepper extract — can also help patients achieve natural pain reduction (especially when combined with complementary treatments like massage therapy). For scoliosis pain, medical research has shown curcumin can reduce severity by 40 percent. In a recent study, patients who took curcumin reported significantly better results than those who didn’t.
Pain management plays an important role in minimizing the impact of scoliosis, but it is just one part of any scoliosis treatment plan. To bring about long-term reduction of scoliosis symptoms, neuromuscular retraining is required. Performing the right exercises creates new muscle memory and helps develop the coordination needed to stabilize the spine and reduce curvature.
While no single treatment can cure scoliosis, back massage plays a supportive role in reducing pain, improving functionality, and enhancing the effectiveness of other therapies. With the right combination of treatments, patients can achieve significant long-term results.
Herbal Pain Relief
Taking the right dietary supplements can also help ease scoliosis pain. For example, four in 10 patients with scoliosis experience long-lasting pain relief when taking curcumin. Our ScoliPAIN Plus supplement provides 6-8 hours of pain relief with time-released curcumin.
Another option that works for some patients is CBD oil. See our comparison of curcumin and CBD oil for managing scoliosis pain.