What is Better, Massage or Acupuncture?

Breeze Academy March 3, 2022
Sports massage

Both acupuncture and massage therapy have their benefits, but is one more effective than the other? Is one more effective at treating specific conditions? In this article, we look into the benefits of both massage and acupuncture to determine which therapy is most effective, or if one is better than the other for certain conditions. 

So, what is better, massage or acupuncture? Neither massage nor acupuncture is inherently better than the other, however one may be more effective than the other for certain conditions. What’s more, studies have shown that combining acupuncture and massage can enhance results, compared to solo interventions.

Read on to learn more about the efficacy of acupuncture vs. massage.

Is Acupuncture More Effective Than Massage?

Both acupuncture and massage have their individual benefits, but the question of whether one is more effective than the other should be considered against individual conditions in order to be fair; they are completely different treatments that come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

What’s more, the efficacy of each treatment will also depend on the client in question, and their medical history. What works well for one client, may not work for another. 

A study comparing popular CAM treatments for back pain concluded that acupuncture was relatively ineffective, however therapeutic massage may be an effective alternative treatment to conventional medical care. That being said, the author of the study stated that such CAM treatments may only be effective as “control therapy”, opposed to providing a full resolution. 

A further study appears to agree, concluding that massage is an effective treatment for persistent back pain as spinal manipulation has clinical benefits that are equivalent to other commonly used therapies. However, another study into the effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain concluded that acupuncture was more effective in improving pain than no acupuncture treatment in patients with chronic low back pain.

Meanwhile, a  study into acupuncture versus massage for neck pain concluded that acupuncture offers great improvements in motion-related neck pain, compared with massage for the same problem. Although, the study goes on to say that acupuncture may only offer effects. 

If we move away from chronic pain, and look towards an area where both acupuncture and massage are commonly used, sports injuries and athletic performance, we see this gap in effectiveness close somewhat; both treatments offer similar benefits in this area. 

Acupuncture offers pain relief, inflammation reduction, improved circulation (1), and trigger point release (1) for sports injuries, such as soft-tissue injuries. Meanwhile massage offers DOMS reduction, reduces chronic pain, improves recovery times, prevents further pain and injury, and increases muscle flexibility. 

Determining whether acupuncture or massage is more effective is dependent on the condition being treated, and the benefits sought. Neither treatment is inherently better than the other, and studies show that they may even work best when used in conjunction with one another. However, if your clients are still unsure, you can always provide some of the key benefits of each treatment in order to help them make a decision. 

Benefits of Acupuncture

Some of the long-term benefits of acupuncture include:

Benefits of Massage

Some of the key benefits of a sports massage (1, 2) include:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased sense of wellbeing
  • Decreases recovery time
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Decreased muscle spasms
  • Better sleep

When to Use Massage Vs. Acupuncture

Typically, it is recommended to use acupuncture for pains that are associated with the nerves (e.g. sharp, stabbing pains), and to use massage for muscular and soft tissue injuries. That being said, both treatments can, and are, used for different purposes successfully. 

It’s your job to use your knowledge and skills as a healthcare professional to determine which treatment is the most appropriate for your client, and to give solid recommendations.

Can You Combine Acupuncture and Massage?

It is widely accepted that combining interventions has the potential to enhance results, and that is equally true of combining acupuncture and massage therapy. 

Combining acupuncture and massage in the same treatment may not be wise (the techniques used in massage therapy could unintentionally stimulate the needles), however when given a short time apart, the combination of acupuncture and massage holds the following benefits:

Acupuncture and Sports Massage CPD Courses at Breeze Academy

Breeze Academy offers a number of CPD courses for healthcare professionals, including both beginner and advanced acupuncture courses, level 3 and level 4 sports massage courses, and clinical yoga teacher training courses. We provide the knowledge and tools you need to confidently and safely practice new interventions, allowing you to increase your service offerings and competitive advantage. 

Learn more about our CPD courses online, or get in touch today.

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