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Massage Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

CamIamCCamIam Posts: 86
edited 09/20/2013 - 11:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I need to start getting some sort of therapy for my back. Had surgery June 13, 2013 to fuse L 4-5. My surgeon is not very pro-therapy of any kind, all he says is walk. Well, I am sick to death of just walking! LOL My family doctor has cleared me to do some sort of therapy, and has written a referral so that I can try and get it covered through benefits. I want to get some sort of therapy because I feel stiff and sore, plus I will be in trouble if I start a gradual back-to work program after sitting on my butt for months. I know I need to slowly rebuild my stamina, strength and flexibility. But here is my question... what are the pros/cons of massage vs physical therapy? I am still sore enough to be really paranoid about someone touching my back, and the thought of being hooked up to some PT machine and left scares me to death.

What are your thoughts/experiences? Thanks......

Cam

47 year old freight handler. Decompression at L4-5 with open PILF and bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
48 year old freight handler. Bilateral foraminotomy, decompression of nerve roots and reduction of spondylolisthesis at L4-5 with open PILF and autogenous bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
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Comments

  • Cam, I'm 7 weeks post op fusion and I got a massage yesterday. I was a little uneasy about someone massaging my back but the massage therapist was experienced and knew what she was doing. She worked on tight spots and she told me to let her know if I felt any pain while she was working on me - some spots felt tender but not painful. I also go to PT twice a week, I find it very helpful. I paid for the massage but PT is covered by insurance. Do both, if you can.
    PLIF fusion L4-L5 and Decompression July 31
  • Liz53Liz53 MissouriPosts: 146
    Hi,
    I am 4 months post L3-4 micro and have been getting PT for about 2 1/2 months. Things had been going well until about a week ago and the Pt did soft tissue massage and it hurt. My muscles were tight but now I have constant pain in my lower back near the area where the herniation was. I am worried that something is not right. My neurosurgeon warned me that he has had instances where a therapist has caused a reherniation. I don't know if PT has helped me. I am going back to see the neurosurgeon next week. Be careful with massage.
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  • dilauroddilauro ConnecticutPosts: 12,318
    really do not overlap, so you can have both

    Physical Therapy is invaluable especially after surgery. I believe anyone having Spinal or Joint surgery should have Physical Therapy as a mandatory course of action. Depending on the surgery, the severity of the condition and a thousand other variables, its really impossible to state what kind of Physical Therapy is required and for how long. Physical Therapy massage breaks through the top level of muscles and can provide good relief.

    Now Massage Therapy, and that is the word. Massage therapy is basically a free word in the United States. Almost anyone having a couple of hours of training from the inside of a match book can call themselves a massage therapist and hang a sign in a window claiming so.

    I've been under the treatment of a Master Thai Massage Therapist. Its normally called Deep Tissue Massage, some times referred to as Soft Tissue massage, Sports Injury Massage, Medical massage, etc. Its an art that is not really taught that much in the states. It is an art perfected in Thailand and can be passed on to those willing to learn the discipline.

    After months of having no success dealing with my Thoracic disc problems, I was frustrated and asked for help, no matter where it may come from. My physiatrist sent me to this little man from Thailand. I didnt know what to expect. I went to his office with my MRI and X-Rays and some medical background. He just took that information put it down and told me to walk up and down his office. From there he decided what type of massage I needed. For the next 45 minutes, I had the most painful and tear jerking treatment I ever had. Pain is only a small way to describe what he does. But in the course of 6 months of weekly treatments, he helped me more than anything else has. I still see this man, years later, perhaps only monthly for tune ups. But he was the person that has kept me out of a wheel chair.

    So, yes Massage Therapy can work very well. It all depends on who is delivering the treatment.

  • You both bring up interesting points.. The massage person I went to told me she wouldn't do a deep massage and she didn't. She also did not massage my spine area. She basically massaged my upper butt, thighs and shoulder area. I certainly don't want to do any harm to myself. Thanks for posting your concerns about massage. Deb
    PLIF fusion L4-L5 and Decompression July 31
  • Deb1234 said:
    I also go to PT twice a week, I find it very helpful. I paid for the massage but PT is covered by insurance. Do both, if you can.
    Thanks Deb. I'm trying to see what the finances will support. I plan to make some calls tomorrow and see what I can find out. I am really sore lately, especially with the fall weather starting up.

    Cam
    48 year old freight handler. Bilateral foraminotomy, decompression of nerve roots and reduction of spondylolisthesis at L4-5 with open PILF and autogenous bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
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  • Thanks for responding so far, folks. I am concerned about anything potentially making things worse. But I also recognize that I also have a lot of fear around the whole therapy idea, despite knowing that I have to get off my butt and get a little more physically active.

    Ron - here in Canada where I live, registered massage therapists (RMT's) have to go to school and pass standardized exams to be licensed. So maybe things are a little different than in the US. But I agree with you, it also depends on the person and their skills.

    One of the things that worries me about going to a PT is being hooked up to a machine and left alone while s/he goes off to another patient. I have heard that one needs to be careful about certain PT procedures or pieces of equipment if you have metal instrumentation in your back. But I am not sure which things to avoid or be very careful of. Does anyone know?

    Cam
    48 year old freight handler. Bilateral foraminotomy, decompression of nerve roots and reduction of spondylolisthesis at L4-5 with open PILF and autogenous bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
  • bigskyericbbigskyeric Posts: 7
    edited 09/22/2013 - 5:13 PM
    I've had 4 discectomies and 4 level lumbar disc replacement. Years and years of PT. I couldn't imagine not doing PT. Interview and ask questions, many therapists are very well trained for doing PT post op for you. Same with massage. Find a pro and let them know you had surgery and just want to feel good and work on loosening things up. It will be great. There are plenty of good articles online for light exercises you can research and discuss with your PT. Avoid the twisting and bending until you feel strong and commit for a full 6 months. Kind of doing PT doesn't work....good luck!
    Eric
  • Well, folks.... I have been going to physio for two weeks now. The first week was HELL. And I was really second guessing my decision to go. But things seem to be calming down now, and I am feeling less tight. Here's hoping I continue to progress in a positive way. I am still very sore when I wake up in the morning, and again by the time I go to bed at night, but I seem to be a lot more loose once I have been up and moving around for a bit. Yay!

    Cam
    48 year old freight handler. Bilateral foraminotomy, decompression of nerve roots and reduction of spondylolisthesis at L4-5 with open PILF and autogenous bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
  • After surgery I had several different rounds of therapy. First was physical therapy which was aimed at getting my muscles moving again. After six appointments there, I was move to aqua therapy and deep tissue massage. Aqua therapy is the best therapy I've ever had. I highly recommend it. The deep tissue massage was over the surgical site to reduce scar tissue build up. It hurt to the point the therapist saw tears in my eyes and she backed off a bit. After ten sessions of that, I was moved into another round of physical therapy that was very helpful.

    About a month after that, I was moved into "Work Conditioning" It was two weeks of hell! My surgeon was very physical therapy minded as you can probably tell by my post. I feel like the physical therapy was much more beneficial for me than the massage therapy. She did take mercy on me the last time I went in and gave me a normal muscle massage instead of the deep tissue version. I could get used to that big time! However, if I had to choose out of all the different forms of physical therapy what worked best for me it would be aqua therapy. The water was 94 degrees and my therapist had me doing numerous exercises in the water which didn't put any stress on my spine. After time in that pool I was moved into the hot tub for 15 minutes which is supposed to keep your muscles from getting tight outside the pool.

    Good luck and I hope you begin feeling better soon!
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • EMS Guy said:
    About a month after that, I was moved into "Work Conditioning" It was two weeks of hell!

    What type of things did the work conditioning involve? I know I will be put in what we call a gradual return to work program, but that is more building up tolerance to a full shift over a few weeks than any type of "conditioning". I have a very physical job - freight handling - so I have already talked to my physio about the need to gradually build up towards that job rather than just starting back at work all at once.

    Wish there was an aqua therapy facility here. But unfortunately I live somewhat out in the country, and I can't yet tolerate a long drive. So I have to make do with what is available. I am feeling up to trying a ride on my bike this week, though. That's progress :-)

    Cam
    48 year old freight handler. Bilateral foraminotomy, decompression of nerve roots and reduction of spondylolisthesis at L4-5 with open PILF and autogenous bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
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