Whether you're seeing a chiropractor for an acute injury or because of a longstanding ailment, you might enhance its effectiveness by also receiving massage therapy. This makes intuitive sense if you break each treatment down to its basics. Chiropractic therapy seeks to restore balance to the body by realigning the spine and other joints. Many chiropractors emphasize manipulation of the spine and focus on problems in the back, neck, and sometimes headaches. Massage therapy focuses on the manipulation of soft tissue -- muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia -- for increased healing, enhanced function of the body, the promotion of well-being, and relaxation.

Even though chiropractic works on the hard tissue and massage works on the soft, the two modalities are complementary. Because of muscle memory, the soft tissue surrounding a misaligned vertebra, for example, seeks to retain that misalignment because this requires less work than that required for the soft tissue to learn a new alignment. Therefore, when a chiropractic adjustment changes the alignment of the vertebrae, the surrounding muscles will try to pull them back into the equilibrium condition -- the misalignment.

Coordinating a deep-tissue or Swedish massage with a chiropractic adjustment can aid in retraining the muscles. Softening the muscles and their attaching tendons allows them to better conform to the new alignment. Allowing both systems to readjust to a new equilibrium together is more efficient than expecting one on its own to remake the whole. Finding practitioners who are willing to communicate as a health care team is ideal.

There are different schools of thought as to whether it is more effective to have the massage prior to or following the chiropractic adjustment. The answer to this does not seem straightforward. Softening the muscles in advance may allow the vertebrae to move further into the correct alignment. Softening them after the adjustment may allow it to be kept for a longer period of time. It may be that it varies on an individual basis.

In either event, chiropractic and massage therapies are wonderfully complementary and each enhances the effects of the other.