View Full Version : Deep Tissue Massage Post-Op

07-17-2013, 12:34 PM
Hey all,

Has anyone gotten deep tissue massages after surgery? What have your experiences been like? Not sure if I'm going to continue with them, even though my surgeon suggested it for pain management.

I'm 4 years post-fusion & 3 years post-thoracoplasty. My ortho suggested I get deep tissue massage for the pain I was feeling around my curve on the right side. X-rays suggested that my pain was all muscular and hardware wasn't broken. I found a local place & got paired up with a therapist who has been trained in alignment/myofascial therapy. We discussed (in depth) my surgeries and my expectations before the first session. Basically I was looking to relieve some tension on the right side of my back, my shoulders, and neck. He was very surprised that I did not have any limitations after my surgery. REALLY surprised since "most fusions don't end well". This is a puzzling statement because my research suggests that this surgery has great results.

And this was my first clue to my therapist's negative opinion on spinal fusion.

After more discussion it was clear that he was pro-holistic healing vs. surgery for scoliosis. Not that he completely undermined the surgical benefits, but the conversation was leaning towards "Are you sure you exhausted all avenues before getting this surgery?" (IF only he knew my horrible experiences with bracing, chiropractic care, etc).

Anyway - the first massage was fine - it helped. I have a very high pain tolerance so he was applying A TON of pressure, but it felt "good" in that strange way. But there was some pain when he was going down my back on the right side. SHARP pain, and I was worried that he was going over my rod rather than muscle. Of course, I told him to stop. I asked him what he was going over & he didn't seem to know. He said he "lost" the direction of my spine since the vertebrae are fused, but found it again when he was going down the lumbar region. He thought it was "probably a rib". My thoughts - could it have been my actual rod/screw? Can you feel those from the outside? Even by looking at my back, he couldn't tell if the spine curved right or left! I'm sorry, but shouldn't that be obvious? My ribs protrude a little on the right side.

I thought I would give him another shot because I wanted work JUST on my neck/shoulders. So the second time, we focused on that area but once again, this sharp pain came about when he went down my mid-back. He still said it was probably a rib, and was surprised it wasn't giving me more pain during daily activities. WELL - today is my 3rd day since the massage and I have to say, I'm experiencing pain like I had BEFORE my fusion 4 years ago. Basically it's a tingly/almost numb-but-not-quite feeling on my right shoulder down my right arm. This annoyed me before I had my surgery because I wouldn't be able to sit straight (to work, study, etc) without feeling it within the first 30 minutes. Well, it's back - and the only thing I can think of that caused it is this massage. I expected to be sore from the deep tissue work, but this is too similar to what I felt before my surgery. I'm thinking this sensation is part of the nerves "waking up" so to speak, but I'm not sure..

I really hope my hardware wasn't damaged by this massage, but how does one find out for sure without another x-ray? I just saw my surgeon, and I know he'll think I'm crazy for going back about this. UGH! Either way, I'm staying away from this massage therapy for a while...

07-17-2013, 04:35 PM
It is interesting that your surgeon said to go ahead for the massage. I just asked mine, as my upper right side{neck and shoulder} seem so tight sometimes. And his words were "do not trust anyone " for a massage. I really think that some people just think they know. {as this message person} and they really have no idea. I know it is summer--but I only trust what I can do or heating pad.
I even had a physical therapist--take on a part of my spine--after my second surgery. When it kept hurting, I had her place an x on the area with marker and then saw my surgeon for x-ray. She was moving part of the rod that was connected to the 1st part. {I had t-10-pelvis in one surgery--then t2-t10 in second surgery so my rods are connected there by additional metal} She was moving that, and telling me I just could not put up with a "little pain"
Surgeon said--do not let anyone move that ever! End of massage.

07-17-2013, 10:14 PM
"most fusions don't end well". This is a puzzling statement because my research suggests that this surgery has great results.

Ask for a reference. My guess is that s/he has seen 1 or 2 patients that weren't happy with their surgery, and has now assumed that everyone is the same.

07-18-2013, 06:05 AM
I found a local place & got paired up with a therapist who has been trained in alignment/myofascial therapy.

This training is not relevant to surgical fusion and anything he says is likely to be clueless.

Basically it's a tingly/almost numb-but-not-quite feeling on my right shoulder down my right arm.

The nerves to the shoulder/arm come out in the cervical area if I recall correctly. Whatever he did in your mid-back, which doesn't sound too helpful, did not cause this issue in your arm. It's impossible. Knowing this, and given what he did with your mid back, you may not want him touching your neck. I know he isn't a chiro but chiro has killed people by doing something heinous with their necks. It's on Quackwatch in Chirobase, the huge section just for chiro on Quackwatch.

Be careful.

07-18-2013, 06:50 AM
My surgeon encouraged massage after 1 year post op. I talked with a few massage therapists and there was only one who was willing to work with me. She never massages the incision area because that is where all the hardware is and little muscle. She really focuses on the scapulae area and it is like heaven. I feel like a million bucks after I see her.

07-18-2013, 11:30 AM
I have tons of respect for massage therapists and chiropractors. One of my best friends is a massage therapist, and I know, at least here in NY, massage therapists have to go through extensive training. And I love my chiropractor. It was only through chiropractic care that I was able to obtain any relief at all prior to my surgery. (That and tai chi, but that's another story.) And at one time I looked into becoming a chiropractor, so I know they go through a lot of schooling as well.

But. I can't tell you how many people, professionals and non-professionals, tried to tell me how to cure my back pain based on no knowledge of scoliosis whatsoever. I think the general public and even people in some medical fields have absolutely no idea what scoliosis is all about. That's fine, there's no reason they should know. But those people shouldn't try to tell us what we need for our pain. And in particular, nobody, and I mean nobody, should try to tell us whether or not surgery is the right solution. Ok, maybe not nobody. Scoliosis professionals get a pass. But nobody else! I endured pain and immobility for literally years while I was deciding whether or not to have the surgery. And the stupid things people told me, I could write a book about. I had people tell me that my back pain was stress-related. One supposed professional told me I was just slouching. More than one chiropractor told me that more chiropractic care would cure my scoliosis. A physical therapist, who I actually quite liked in other respects, encouraged me to try walking around with my right hip sticking out to counteract my curve. And everyone under the sun tried to discourage me from having this surgery. Even my husband was not convinced until he met Dr. Errico and saw my X-rays. Granted I know "back surgery" sounds ominous, and actually is horrendous and somewhat barbaric. But how on earth can a person who has never experienced scoliosis pain and has no education in scoliosis treatment tell you to try alternative therapies? What alternative therapies, I ask? For adults I mean. Is massage going to cure scoliosis? Our spines grew this way. They're not just going to pop back into a straight line with snake oil. I get frustrated from these sentiments, especially from professionals and para-professionals. It belittles our pain. We don't just waltz into back surgery for a lark or because we're hypochondriacs. We do it because it's a tried and true solution and our surgeons are experts and, ok I'll say it, geniuses at what they do, and they do it several times a week. But a massage therapist thinks you should have pursued alternative therapies? That therapist should try walking with a crooked back for a week. That'll learn'em. I realize this isn't everyone else's crusade, but this hit a nerve, shall we say.

All that being said, I would love to give massage a try formpost-surgical pain once my doctor gives me the go ahead. Last night I started having muscle spams in my stomach. My stomach! Felt so creepy. I think it's a reaction to my brand new lordosis which I love so much. That and sleeping on my back all the time. I wonder if massage would help with all this stiffness as my body adjusts to it's new framework. But I think I'm with Jackie and the others who caution to be careful and don't trust anybody! Or at least, don't trust "just" anybody. Nobody knows your pain and your body like you do. Ok, end of rant. Thanks for letting me say my piece :-) I've been wanting to get that off my chest since way before my surgery! Actually, since a friend tried to get me to read that back that was all about how to cure back pain through stress relief...

07-18-2013, 07:03 PM
i do not know about muscle spasms in stomach, but muscle spasms
in upper spine, in my case, are helped with periodic botox shots...
for me, it helps with the spasms...not with any other kind of pain.
i have not had surgery...though have been told i need to.

hope the spasms go away...

07-18-2013, 08:17 PM
I still work at times with one of my PT's. He is good and helps me get my right shoulder blade moving better.He is the only one I trust. and just there. Yes BARONESS rant on. It is amazing what others tell you. I am not sure that my surgeon even can tell someone how this works{or doesn't}
I have a legal case in the works{I am not suing any doctor or hospital or any other person} I can't post details yet--but you should hear lawyers debate this surgery. Ok--what gives them the right to make a judgement about something they have never even seen before.For my sake I hope this comes to a close before long{it has been 6 years already}Then I will give more details.
And more details about people who should keep their opinions quiet! I would love to say more but I must also be quiet.

07-18-2013, 08:57 PM
Hi Baroness,

I hear you about people who know nothing about scoliosis and telling you what to do.

One person, who tried to scare me away from the surgery, was very pushy and wanted me to see her brilliant massage therapist. She talked to this clown about me and this massus said that he helped ONE woman with scoliosis and he gave me diagnosis without even seeing me. His diagnosis was: "Scoliosis caused by infection. It is treatable by special oils used in massage therapy." When I heard it, I forgot about all the political correctness, and laughed hysterically at the face of this woman.

When I was considering whether to have or not to have this surgery, I only shared it with my husband, a few very close friends and this forum, of course. Even my own mother didn't know what I was up to. I told her two months after I booked the surgery date. I was afraid of other people uneducated influence and I didn't not need that while making the decision. I wanted this decision to be my only. When I booked the date, I was confident and no longer worried about anybody trying to talk me out of it.

07-19-2013, 12:50 PM
It's so strange how, for years, I struggled with my scoliosis and what to do about it, and I thought I was all alone, and now come to find out there is a whole community of people going through the exact some thing, feeling the exact same way. I am happy to find you all! Irina, I did the same thing when deciding to have the surgery. I told very few people. I even waited a long time to discuss it with my husband. I did all my research first. Because EVERYONE will ask you if you've tried other options first. When my spine took a turn for the worse, which was back 2008, I went to see a scoliosis specialist, Dr. Stieber, who recommended surgery. I was so aghast at the idea at the time. So I spent about 5 years going to the chiropractor 2-3 times per week. I do not in any way regret all my time with the chiro. She didn't heal my scoliosis of course, and she didn't claim she could. But she believed the chiropractic adjustments could keep the pain at bay for years. And I think the adjustments did help with my pain. (And on top of that she's a really positive person. One time when I was feeling down about my curve, she told me "think of yourself as a strong vine!" That was a great image that kept me going for a long time. Her name is Dr. Lila Wolfe, for any Manhattan-ites looking for a chiropractor.) But one of the last times I saw her, she tried to adjust me, and I screamed in pain! I don't know where it came from, because I'd been getting adjustments just like that for years. But all of a sudden it was extremely painful. That was one of the tipping points for me, when I knew my rib cage had moved into an unacceptable position. I also saw a physical therapist (the one who tried to get me to stick my hip out!) The PT was actually really good, and he of course recommended core-strengthening exercises, which I did for years, although sporadically, because every couple months I would start feeling terrible pain, and I would stop all activities for a few weeks until the pain went away. But the exercises the PT recommended were really good, and the exercises themselves did not cause any injury. The PT believed that if I strengthened my core muscles, it could possibly prevent the curve from progressing, or at least help my body do a better job of holding myself upright despite my curve. And I think that notion seems fairly sound, and at least isn't likely to make anything worse. My curve wasn't one of those rapidly progressing curves, so I can't speak to whether or not core strengthening could prevent curve progression. But core strengthening I think falls into the category of "can't hurt, might help." Anyways, I guess my point is (I fear I'm rambling - which I attribute to the oxycodone!), my point is, there are alternative therapies out there that I tried, that were actually helpful for alleviating the pain. And if I wanted to try to live with my scoliosis, and not have surgery, these types of therapies would be helpful. My sister has become a devotee of the Alexander Technique, which has helped her back pain immensely, and I think and I hope that it will prevent her from ever having to have surgery. I wish that for everyone who is able to avoid surgery through alternative therapies.

Where was I? Oh yeah, so I did all this research, and tried all these alternative therapies, for 5 years before I finally went to my husband and said, "it's time." And then we met with the surgeon, who we both liked, and started making plans to have the surgery. But I didn't tell anyone else. I let my husband tell some of our closest friends. And I told one other close friend and my boss, both of whom I trust, and who trust my judgment and didn't try to second guess me. Just like Irina, I held off telling my family until right before the surgery. They were understandably concerned, and some of my family members tried to talk me out of it. But my method was, the fewer people I told about it, the fewer people would try to talk me out of it. I think for most people, trying to talk you out of the surgery comes from good intentions. The surgery sounds so awful, that our close friends and family want to protect us from such pain and anguish. But for some, those good intentions manifest themselves in wanting us to try alternative therapies, some of which might be helpful for alleviating pain. But as far as I know, there is no way to straighten our spines once we become adults. And for me, my lumbar spine was pretty mangled. So living with it, which I know is a valid solution for some, but living with it just wasn't going to work for me.

I think I've gotten somewhat off topic. I guess the topic here is whether or not massage might be helpful to alleviate pain. I guess my answer would be yes, but there's no massage therapist on the planet, no matter how well trained or how well informed and educated about scoliosis, who can cure scoliosis. (Caused by infections, ha ha! Cured by special oils! That's funny! It helps to laugh I think. As Ed would say, <smiley>.) I merely rant against such notions because I'm stuck at home recovering from my surgery, funnelling all my post-surgical anxiety into being angry at all the people who told me not to have the surgery. So please feel free to take my rantings with a grain of salt :-) Although I so appreciate, and feel so much gratitude towards, the like-minded people on this forum. I didn't get to formally "meet" you all until after my surgery, but you all were so instrumental in helping me make my decision, and all your posts gave me so much comfort to ease my worries about my spine. I wouldn't wish scoliosis on anyone, but I am grateful to have met others who I can relate to.

07-21-2013, 01:00 AM
Thank you all so much for your thoughtful responses! Probably not going back...probably muscular aches, I've ruled out any rod issues but it's just so darn uncomfortable. It'll be a week tomorrow and I'm still feeling the soreness. Lesson learned.

Baroness--I completely understand where you're coming from with that last post on many levels. I would love to hear more about your experiences with chiro because I, too, was seeing one multiple times per week...up to 5x sometimes, before my surgery. My chiro was great, too, and I know that he genuinely believed he could help me with the Clear method. (While I don't believe in that program's effectiveness these days, I did back then--and perhaps the chiro shouldn't have been as steadfastly unquestioning in the program's methods, but that's neither here nor there.)

It sounds like we have different reasons for having gone to the chiro, but had similar experiences with meeting nice, caring professionals. Honestly, I can't say the same for my ortho. He is GREAT on paper, knows his stuff, but I just don't get that same genuine interest in my case since he sees this day after day after day....and in my past experience, EVERY "holistic healer" I have talked to about my scoliosis was interested in learning more about it, how it affected me, my pain, etc. The orthos I came into contact with, on the other hand, had very poor bedside manners and were 100% technical, 0% emotional. No matter what the holistic group's intentions were, this is why I was so put off by surgery--because I felt like my surgeons didn't "get" me as a person, and my chiros struck a nice balance with my scoliosis and me as a person. Of course, interest doesn't equal expertise.

I also NEVER discussed my scoliosis with friends (or even most immediate family) until AFTER I had the surgery. My body compensated for my curves sort of well, considering the 80 degree curve, and I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag for fear that people would start noticing the cosmetic deformity. I couldn't tell anyone about it without getting overly emotional and nervous. I even broke up with my boyfriend a few weeks before my fusion because I didn't want to tell him! That's how "ashamed" I was--and thinking back I can't even imagine the torment I was putting myself through. After the surgery, I wanted to shout it from the rooftop. And I do, and I have been for the past 4 years (without being obnoxious!). It's strange how the transformation happened -- I still have around a 30 degree curve and slight rib hump, but I'll be the first one to explain it to a curious cat. :)

Anyway - that's my sappy little response. This forum is great for support & I'm finding myself coming on more and more to browse, learn & share. So thanks. :)

08-12-2013, 07:17 PM
I am a big fan of massage. I had massages every week before my surgery. I started back at 13 weeks post op.
My advice is find a QUALIFIED professional that has experience with scoliosis and fusion. I lucked up finding the right person...
If it hurts, do not continue.
I really enjoy getting my shoulder blades worked on.
I highly doubt the therapist felt your hardware... it should be deep within you and even if he could feel it he could not break it.
Would be extremely unlikely.
I partially believe that massage is part of the reason for my awesome recovery.

08-23-2013, 08:09 PM
I have been going to an excellent therapist who specializes in myo-facial release. He helped me with pain relief before my surgery, and with reducing scar tissue formation and promoting healing afterwards. I just went for a treatment this week and it had been well over a year since I had seen him. Honestly, he knew more about scoliosis than some of the docs I had seen locally, although I was originally referred to him by a local physician. Get the credentials of anyone you're considering working with. If they are myo-facial release specialists, they should know the name "John Barnes" who is considered to be a pioneer and leading expert in this field. Ideally, they should have some experience working with scoliosis patients. Although this type of massage can be slightly uncomfortable/painful at times, you should feel much better afterwards. The therapist I work with always explains exactly what he's doing and why and always makes sure I'm not feeling any significant pain or discomfort. He is part of a group alternative medicine practice through our local hospital system and everything they do there is overseen by an MD. The right kind of massage can be a wonderful healing modality both physically and mentally. Hope you can find someone in your area that will take better care of you!

08-26-2013, 04:43 PM
I have found both a PT and a massage therapist in the Tucker/Atlanta area there are AMAZING! Both are very knowledgeable and both encourage me to do things that I did not think were possible. I started with PT 6 mos post op and massage 8 mos. I didn't not have deep tissue massage as I would imagine that would be quiet painful. My therapist worked on loosening the super tight muscles around the infusion and helped to relieve some of the nerve stinging and burning issues.

I am 2 years post op now. Feeling great. Never thought I would gain so much mobility. I have my PT and massage therapist to thank for that.

Good luck!

08-27-2013, 11:58 AM
I'm 10 and 1/2 months out and doing pretty well. My fusion was from T10 to the sacrum. I'm much more active than I was before surgery and enjoying, but I still have some nerve-pain issues with my feet (actually with my left that never bothered me before.)

Physical therapy has helped me a lot. I did it for more than six months straight and now do it intermittently.

The PT wants to do myofascial release on me. He did it once and it's directly on the spine. It hurt, but was tolerable. Felt worse that day, but did recover. I'm a little fearful to keep it up as he just gave me a little taste.

Anne--how long are your sessions and does the massage therapist work directly over your spine?

Thanks for your thoughts.

12-29-2013, 02:14 AM
I looked up "massage" and found this thread on the subject, so thought that I would continue it instead of starting a new one (aren't you proud of me, Linda?). I do not know what kind of massage i had....deep tissue or not. i am 9+ months post T3 to Sacrum with fixation and have been doing fairly well except some probable muscle pain and cervical arthritis/degeneration. I told the LMT about my surgery. Well, I now have mild right breast pain (no massage to the girls) and some occasional sharp L upper back pains when I move. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. My PT said that massage was OK, but I did not ask my surgeon.

Also, a note to anyone wanting a massage, I had not thought out the "now I would like for you to roll over onto your back" part of the massage. With my fusion with pelvic fixation rolling over looks like a beached whale rolling over. She thought that I was going to fall off of the table as I needed to move all the way to the edge to even begin to roll. HELP....has anyone figured this put?

Reading some of the responses above, it seems that many surgeons think that massage is OK. So, have you asked your spinal surgeon if massage is OK, if yes how far after surgery was it OK? Any restrictions per your surgeon?


I will call my surgeon, Dr. Hu tomorrow to see what says about massage

12-29-2013, 06:52 AM
I would love to just have my shoulders an neck done. Since surgery I feel like a bobble head and like it takes so much effort that my neck is so sore by night. My husband won't rub my shoulders for he's not sure if it will hurt anything, but he does do my beck at the base of my skull. But I want more and deeper.


12-29-2013, 06:50 PM
Hi Susan
I did ask my surgeon about massage--he said NO! Now the Pt messages me but I truely hope that they know what they are doing!My Dr said no and I am almost 3 years down the road.