For Pain, Motion is Lotion

March 13th, 2019
pre and post-surgical rehab

When It Comes to Pain Management, It’s Good to Get Things Moving

Many people picture massage therapy as a passive approach to healing. However, if pain management is the goal, it’s often a proactive therapy requiring work on the part of the patient. To get the most out of your massage experience and to combat pain, motion is the lotion.

According to Dr. Mike Evans much of the way we think about pain determines how quickly we respond to treatment. For instance, his research confirms an old adage with which every massage therapist is familiar: Healing takes place in the presence of motion. Drugs for some low back pain conditions may be appropriate. However, Dr. Evans suggests that the role of pharmaceuticals is often to employ the minimum effective dose to keep us moving. Avoiding all pain all the time may not be of therapeutic benefit, especially if the pain (or your belief about the illness) makes you want to stay perfectly still.

Our mistaken beliefs about pain often lead us away from providing the healing body with the motion it needs to ease pain symptoms. Before embarking on a pain rehabilitation program, Dr. Evans points out that we must first be aware of potential red flags and yellow flags. (Your massage therapist will, of course, be alert to these issues.)


• Numbness
• Sustained fever (indicating possible infection)
• Persistent pain that won’t go away
• Unexplained weight loss


• The mistaken belief on the part of the patient that all acute pain is necessarily harmful.
• Avoidance of all movement and activities because of that belief.
• Low mood and social isolation.
• The mistaken belief that the patient must remain the passive receiver of treatment instead of becoming an active participant (by applying the “motion is lotion” mantra).

Some orthopedic testing or a referral to another health professional may be appropriate to rule out red flags. Your therapist will discuss various treatment options for your pain before proceeding with a treatment plan individualized to you and your concerns.

Massage therapists are good listeners!

We won’t push you to move farther or faster than is appropriate for your condition. However, what you do at home and at work will have a great influence on your return to better health. Various factors many people take for granted can affect our health. Such factors include diet, previous exercise, chronic postures, lifestyle demands such as work and family, social support and stress management.

In addition to the treatment most people picture on the massage table, there is a range of treatment options. At the end of your appointment, we may suggest some basic remedial exercises in order to speed your recovery.

Down the road on your journey back to full or fuller function, you may graduate beyond therapeutically specific exercises, perhaps even to an exploration of yoga or Pilates. At each stage of applying the motion is lotion principle, the amount of work and movement applied should be appropriate to your capacity. In other words, some discomfort is not a reason to panic, but we don’t believe in the old no pain, no gain slogan, either!

Pain science’s new slogan is: know pain, know gain!

Most body pains do go away. If pain persists, Dr. Evans suggests two additional treatment options to consider:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may help you change the way you think about pain so you don’t avoid it at all costs. Pain sensitivity is not only determined by what’s going on in the body. The latest research suggests we can affect pain levels substantially by decreasing the stress and distress we feel about pain signals.

Dr. Evans suggests bringing in a multidisciplinary team may also help you achieve your wellness goals. Fortunately, at our new Tillicum Rd clinic in Victoria, in addition to experienced massage therapists, we also have a chiropractor and a physiotherapist on the premises. Working together, these therapies can complement each other’s effects and speed your healing.

The word “equilibrium” means a state of physical balance and a calm state of mind. Finding the right amount of motion to provide the lotion your body needs is a balance. At Equilibrium, we’ll help you find that balance, together.

~ Robert Chute RMT (Ret.) is the author of Do The Thing, The Last Stress-busting Book You’ll Ever Need.