Massage therapy and pain relief

By Cherith | 11th November 2019
Massage therapy can help pain relief and reduce the impact of stress on the body.

This month as part of our focus on body-care, we talk to our experienced resident masseur Juan Carlos. In this interview, we look at the relationship between massage therapy and pain relief. Juan Carlos also tells us a little about the conditions he often sees as a therapist and the impact stress can have on the body. Juan shares one of his favourite stretches that you can try for yourself at home to help relieve tight muscles and unwind tense minds.

Cherith: Can you tell me about the sort of common complaints that you see as a therapist at La Crisalida?

Juan Carlos: We have many guests who come to us with lots of stress and tension in their bodies. This is mainly felt in the lumbar area, lower back, hip area and neck and shoulders. Occasionally we may encounter guests who have more serious problems such as whiplash or fibromyalgia, which is more than safe to treat with massage too.

Cherith: Can you explain to me how massage therapy might be able to reduce the amount of physical pain which someone suffers from? What techniques do you use to do so?

Juan Carlos: Massages are very good for treating the body in a gentle manner – little by little. It’s important to work in a fluid and holistic way and not to apply too much pressure straight away, to use the right pressure or the body will become tense again and we can create the opposite effect. To work in this manner, we can encourage the body to relax.

During my career as a massage therapist I have trained in many different forms of body work and enjoy combining all my previous knowledge and experience to give clients a truly personalised treatment. With my understanding of human anatomy and massage training, I am able to help many clients who are suffering from chronic muscle pain and tension. I often use cranial sacral therapy techniques during my treatments as well as some more very subtle techniques such as acupressure and trigger point therapy. Even after just one treatment some clients have reported a reduction in their muscle tension and improvement in mobility. I would, however, recommend at least one follow up treatment for anyone suffering from chronic pain or muscle tension.

Cherith: At La Crisalida, I understand some guests may suffer from common detox symptoms due to the change in diet whilst here. Is this something that you can treat using massage therapy also?

Juan Carlos: Yes, of course. I sometimes see people who may be suffering from constipation or bloating. I can offer gentle abdominal massage in these circumstances which will help regulate peristalsis and bowel movements. Headaches can be another common detox symptoms, as the liver is working overtime to deal with the toxins the body is releasing from the cells. Massage is a great natural way to support the body in the detox process. There´s an earlier article that Lisa wrote about natural ways to find relief from detox symptoms here.

Cherith: Massage, I imagine, can be quite demanding on the therapist’s own body and I understand in the past that you suffered from back pain yourself. What sort of things do you do to keep yourself fit and healthy?

Juan Carlos: Yes, massage can be quite demanding. The most important thing to help to prevent back pain or problems is to have mobility in the body. Massage can help with this flexibility and mobility in the hips, shoulders etc. I also regularly do my own stretches, which I learned from practicing yoga.

Cherith: Do you have massage treatments yourself? And what do you recommend when people are looking for a therapist to help deal with muscle pain and tension?

Juan Carlos: It is important to find a therapist who works in a holistic way. What I mean is that someone who understands how the body works and is interconnected. A good massage therapist will know that if I have shoulder pain for example, that it is not only important to work there, but also work on other areas of the body that could actually be aggravating or even causing the problem. Pain may manifest in the shoulders but it can begin elsewhere in the body such as from hips that are out of alignment, or tight muscles in the legs or lower back.

Cherith: Can you talk a little about the ‘mind-body’ connection? How might massage therapy help those suffering from stress-related muscle tension and pain?

Juan Carlos: Stress is something that everyone seems to suffer from now. What is happening in the brain or the mind affects the rest of our body. There is a physiological response in the body when we become stressed. Hormones are realised into the bloodstream such as cortisol and adrenaline, which cause the muscles to become tight. Emotional stress can become expressed in the body as tight fascia and muscles, or even affect our digestive system, presenting at times as an upset stomach. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can read our earlier article about how stress can impact our digestive system and how you can help relax it.

Cherith: Do you see a connection between the types of jobs people have, and the conditions they present with?

Juan Carlos: Yes, most definitely, straight away! For example, if you sit all day at a desk working on a computer, your posture and muscle tension will reflect this. You can create a lot of tension in the chest area sitting hunched over a desk for long periods of time. The body will adapt and compensate in an attempt to balance itself out, and muscles in the back will become tense and create knots. A waiter may develop pain in their shoulders from carrying heavy trays, and in the legs from being on their feet all day. It is important to do a range of stretches to counteract the way we are holding and using our bodies each day.

Cherith: After treating people for muscle pain with massage techniques, what further advice do you give to your clients?

Juan Carlos: I would suggest always after a massage to rest for at least two hours, because the body can take 24 – 72 hours to readjust to the treatment. Massage stimulates the lymphatic and circulatory systems, so I always advise that clients drink a lot of water to help it detox and rid it of any toxins that may have been released during the treatment. It is also very important to do something that you enjoy. When we do things that we like, it can help counteract work stress and give us the energy to cope with our busy minds and schedules.

Cherith: And finally, do you have any simple exercises or advice you would give to someone who works at a desk all day to keep their bodies supple and pain free?

Juan Carlos: People who suffer from muscle pain after sitting at a desk all day could try a simple exercise which can help stretch out their lower back and shoulders. It´s actually one of my favourite yoga poses! The foetal position or child’s pose – as shown in the photo – is a very gentle stretch which anyone can do at home. I would suggest that you hold it for at least three minutes and aim to do it every day. By holding it for this length of time the muscles and connective tissue will have a chance to release and soften. If you can also incorporate some deep breaths into the stretch this can also help calm the nervous system and help the body and mind relax and let go. You can read more about other simple yoga poses which can help release and prevent lower back pain here and how yoga breathing can help calm the mind and settle the body.

Look after your body at La Crisalida Retreats

At La Crisalida health and wellbeing Retreats we offer a wide range of holistic treatments, ranging from relaxing massage to reiki, deep tissue to bio-resonance. Massage is just one of the many wonderful ways you can nurture yourself during your stay here at the retreat. Find out more about the treatments we offer here.


Cherith is one of the Duty Managers here at the retreat. She loves cooking and has studied naturopathic nutrition and massage therapy.

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