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Sufferers of chronic musculoskeletal pain are often faced with the dilemma of choosing between a chiropractor or a massage therapist when seeking treatment. It is sometimes difficult to deduce which therapy is the best for what condition. A study published in "Spine" in 2003 suggests that both methods of treating pain, especially pain in the shoulders and neck, are effective.


Chiropractic care bases treatment on the functions of the nervous system. Chiropractic theory believes if the nervous system is not functioning properly that disease will develop. Treatment involves readjustment of anatomical structures that may be hindering the normal function of the nerves, most notably the spinal column.

Massage also affects the nervous system but through the manipulation of muscle tissue. Massage therapists attempt to encourage free flow of fluids and energy in the body by manually manipulating body tissue.


Chiropractic is often used to alleviate pain in the shoulders, neck, lower back and legs. It has been known to treat arthritis and other chronic pain problems. The term chiropractic was first used in 1898 when Daniel David Palmer founded the Palmer School of Chiropractic.

Massage can be used for many of the same ailments that are treated with chiropractic care but often has the added benefit of relaxing the senses. Massage has been used for centuries in many cultures. Some names of different massage techniques are Tui Na, Shiatsu, Circulatory and Swedish.

Expert Insight

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A study called Patterns and Perceptions of Care for Treatment of Back and Neck Pain appeared in 2003. The studied questioned over 2,000 people how they dealt with their aches and pains. Massage took home the gold with people preferring it to chiropractic for any kind of back pain or general body pain, but chiropractic led the race in upper-back pain and neck pain. Even with these results, visits to chiropractors were much more common than visits to massage therapists.


Both the chiropractic and massage industries benefit from the above study. The study claims that most of the people questioned were dissatisfied with their conventional doctor&rsquo;s approach to pain management. For the patient, or client, chiropractic and massage therapies circumvent the side effects of pain relief medication and have the added benefit of lasting pain relief. In the end, it is not a choice between chiropractic or massage but the balance of both that may help a patient with chronic pain.


Talk to your doctor about pursuing alternative treatments. Keep an open discourse with your doctor, chiropractor and massage therapist. The information you give them will help them coordinate your treatment.