Many clients don’t understand the root sources of the pain they are experiencing…all they know is that they hurt, or they’re weak, or they don’t move as well as they used to. Being able to help them understand where pain comes from goes a long way in the fight to stop the downward spiral of desperation that so many clients experience when their western doctors don’t quite seem to get it.

While the specific origins of pain can be — and usually are — very complicated, for our purposes as massage therapists, pain can be explained in very general terms as being visceral, structural, or myofascial.

Visceral Pain

This kind of pain originates in the internal organs and main body cavities and is caused by the stimulation of nociceptors, which are sensory receptors for painful stimuli. It’s vitally important to support and encourage clients to discuss their pain with their doctors because the pathology that causes the pain could potentially be quite serious. For example, complaints of pelvic pain may very well be myofascial, but it can also be caused by irritable bowel syndrome or bladder disorders. If there’s ever any question that pain could be something other than muscular, it is best to refer the client to a medical professional for diagnosis and/or treatment. Because it’s just as important to know what the cause of pain is as to what it is not.

Structural Pain

This type of pain originates from biomechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. While the majority of issues involve the spine, as in a spondylolisthesis, pain can also stem from issues such as subluxation, which can effect any joint, or stenosis, which can effect the spine as well as blood vessels or any other tubular organ or structure. It’s essential that we, as massage therapists, educate ourselves about symptoms that may accompany the more common issues in order to confidently advise the client to consult with the appropriate medical professional.

Myofascial Pain

This category is right up our alley as it includes muscles and connective tissue…our specialty! Once it has been determined, through proper examination and diagnostic testing, that their pain doesn’t have visceral or structural origins, then there’s only one other option — soft tissue — and that’s something we can work with. Western doctors (or any number of specialists they may have consulted in their quest to relieve their pain) often misdiagnose pain that is actually caused by trigger points. But now you’re in a great position to reassure your clients that they don’t just have to live with it or rely on pharmacological or surgical treatments to manage it. If the origin of their pain is myofascial, there’s a chance you can offer them an effective option to manage it.

A Valuable Tool…

Granted, these three explanations present an extremely simplified perspective on pain. However, it is an interpretation that is both relatable and understandable (something that the majority of clients don’t get from other therapists or, especially, their own doctors) and reassures them that you are a knowledgeable professional who can help them manage their myofascial pain as well.

You can even take it a step further by explaining how Integrated Modalities Technique, through its unique blend of Western, Eastern, and Energetic techniques makes it possible to manage myofascial pain. Teaching them about trigger points…what they are, how they work, and how they can be deactivated… as well as an explanation of pain from a Traditional Chinese Medicine or energetic perspective, gives them additional confidence in your ability to help them break their cycle of pain.

Once they experience fantastic results, you’ll have a client that will be singing your praises to anyone they meet who is in pain. And that’s a guaranteed way to build your practice.