Is it Better to Go to the Chiropractor Before or After A Back Massage?

Having the flexibility of many different services at one location offers a convenience when it comes to wellness care. With more services comes more questions, however. If I’m having services performed on the same day, which should come first? It’s a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation. The truth is, it depends wholly on you. In general, it’s best to get a back massage after your chiropractic care for minor stiffness and aches. Additionally, it’s better to have your massage before your chiropractic care when you have a lot of muscle tightness. Still, there’s an even more ideal solution.

In our San Francisco practice we have integrated a wide range of modalities. This includes chiropractic care from our chiropractors, massage therapy with our team of massage therapists, and acupuncture from our three acupuncturists. Naturally, patients want to experience many forms of treatment with us, often in the same visit. Occasionally we also recommend services to patients, depending on their personal need and severity of their injuries. Particularly, we see quite a lot of patients interested in massage and chiropractic care on the same visit. Often within the same hour.

Yet, this doesn’t answer the ultimate question: Which combination is the best?

Massage Therapy After An Adjustment

If you’re coming into our clinic with mild ache and stiffness in your neck or lower back pain then—in our experience—many types of massage can be most effective after your chiropractor adjusts you. Chiropractic spinal manipulation, or adjustments, have the effect of improving spinal joint range of motion. Better spine motion allows your body to reflexively relax tight and tender muscles. A fast stretch reflex occurs when your joints pop, and provides an immediate and palpable relaxation response. There’s less pressure. Your muscles loosen up. Your muscles are set up to receive a better, more comfortable back massage.

Then, when you have that relaxing swedish massage, your muscle stretch reflex won’t be influenced by altered joint biomechanics. This is important because the quality of your joint movement always influences muscle tightness. Tight joints lead to tight muscles. A massage over a tight spine will be fighting an uphill battle that may be unnecessary.

Adjustment After Massage Therapy

If you come into the clinic with acute pain, then it may be better to have a little bit of soft tissue work done by a massage therapist before having treatment by a chiropractor. A deep tissue massage can help reduce stress and break through some of that initial tightness to make chiropractic care more effective. Tight, guarded muscles from acute pain may respond better to an adjustment after an intuitively-crafted back massage. Inflammation and swelling within a muscle belly after an injury may have to be effleuraged—massage in a circular motion—with a surface massage coupled with muscle stretch techniques.

When your muscles are lengthened and relaxed, you may be able to more comfortably receive an adjustment. When your chiropractor gives you an adjustment, he has to use his hands and applies pressure to bring the proper area of the spine into its end range of motion. This can be hard to do when your muscles are extremely guarded.

Getting The Most Out of Your Back Massage And Adjustment

Still, there’s an even more efficient way to have a massage and have a chiropractic visit: Have them performed on different days.

Here’s the reason why. When you have a chiropractic adjustment, there’s that reflex that relaxes tight muscles. This reflex works by a rapid stretch reflex to the ends of the muscles (Golgi Tendon Organs) and at the joint capsule. The stretch reflex resets the tone measured and delivered by the muscle spindle cells in the belly of the muscle. The result of all of this is muscle relaxation.

The net effect of a back massage is also muscle relaxation, but it works in different ways. It also depends on the technique.

There’s a method of massage where the therapist provides a deep ischemic press to a trigger point in your muscle. The long-held press starves the muscle spindle cell of blood flow, and this forces it to relax. It’s very effective, but in combination with chiropractic care, it may be counter productive.

Repetitive slow stretches to the muscles may also be counterproductive to the effects of the chiropractic adjustment, too. After getting an adjustment it is sometimes helpful to avoid any rubbing of your muscles in certain situations. This is nuance, and it’s up to the discretion of both your chiropractor and your massage therapist.

Not to worry, though! We take great care to communicate between our chiropractors and therapists to prevent treatment from being counterproductive. You want to make sure that—no matter who takes care of you—the lines of communication are open between your providers. This ensures you will make the most of your care.

In The End, It’s All Good

At the end of you visit—regardless of the order of these treatments—you feel pretty incredible after being treated to both. The benefits of massage and chiropractic care are innumerable, both Sometimes you just need to have it done all at once. Many of our patients have busy schedules, and have little time to spend on wellness care. It is often, however, in your best interest to invest care for your overall well being.

Luckily, Rincon Chiropractic is in the heart of the Bay Area, in downtown San Francisco that is close to all forms of transportation. Not every location will have Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Massage Therapy available, but we do. Wherever you decide to go having good massage therapy and chiropractic care can be beneficial to you, regardless of the order.