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Muscle relaxers before a massage?

It sounds like such a good idea, combining muscle relaxers with massage. Either to deepen that sedative, relaxing effect, or to try and fix the pain from spasms, a muscle relaxer feels like a safe choice. Sadly, this seemingly wonderful combination is NOT the way to go.

Muscle relaxers come in two flavors: anti-spasmodic and anti-spastic. Antispasmodics are the most commonly used relaxer for sudden and severe muscle pain, like a back getting thrown out. Antispasmodics prevent pain signals from getting to the brain by interrupting the cycles that cause pain by sedating the Central Nervous System.

Muscle relaxers are not pain relievers; this is a common misconception. Because the goal of the medication is to prevent the sensation of pain, a massage client cannot effectively feel or communicate their pain levels. When the body is unresponsive to pain, people tend to think they can handle more than is needed or recommended.

A therapist is unable to treat a client's problem areas in this state; they cannot use deep tissue techniques or firm pressure for concern of injuring a client. Doctors are reluctant to prescribe muscle relaxers unless over the counter pain killers or non-pharmaceutical options have been tried first, as relaxers can have side effects in addition to being addictive.

Massage, stretching, hot tub, yoga, mild exercise and saunas are good starting points to reduce pain. Physical therapy is a great tool as well. Taking muscle relaxers before a massage will result in the client having reduced ability to feel sensation. Asking the therapist to apply deeper pressure may not meet your expectations. The massage will still be relaxing and pleasant, but if feeling deep pressure is important, taking muscle relaxers prior to a session is discouraged.

Writing Credit: Mariah Kuipers, LMT


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