Treatment Approaches

Breaking up muscle knots, without completely breaking your budget


Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good massage.  Exercise and stretching are incredibly important, but sometimes you really just need someone to dismantle the knots that have taken over your muscles, and give your body a “reset.”

Unfortunately, if you’re dealing with a chronic condition, the cost of things like massage, acupuncture, and other bodywork can add up quickly.   How you can you pay for these things without completely ruining your budget?

Here are some of the best strategies I’ve learned over the years for using your money as effectively as possible to get the help you need.

*Before booking anywhere, look the place up on Yelp to see if other people had a good experience there.  This is especially true if you’re following my next tip:

*Check websites like Groupon and Living Social.  Many massage therapists post deals on these sites to try to bring in new clients.  I’ve saved a lot of money and met some interesting, helpful people this way.   I’ve also seen people start to post deals for other types of therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic.

*Check the massage therapist’s or business’s own website.  A lot of places offer a discount to first-time customers, or a monthly special.  (Many also offer a discount for people who book multiple appointments, but leave that until after you’ve had at least one massage there).

*Check to see if your insurance company will help you pay for massage.   Some companies, at least in the US, will pay for about 15% of the cost of your massage, if you go to someone that’s in-network.

*Ask if there is a sliding scale.  Sometimes people in the helping professions offer a “sliding scale” to those with financial difficulty.  It isn’t something they always advertise, however, since they (quite understandably) don’t want to be taken advantage of.

This is sometimes an awkward conversation, but if it’s the difference between you getting help or not, it can be worth asking.

*Try to find a massage school near you that runs a student clinic.

Massage students have to perform a certain number of hours of massage before they can be licensed.  Most massage schools operate a student clinic where members of the public can come and get a discounted massage performed by a student.

This probably won’t be a spa-like experience.  You might end up sharing a room that has multiple massage tables in it with other people.   But it is a way to get a low-priced massage, without having to book too far in advance.  (Thanks to Jezzybel for this suggestion!).

*See if you can find a physical therapist who specializes in massage. 

Unfortunately, not all physical therapists consider massage to be an important part of treatment.   Some PT’s haven’t had very much training in it.  Others are discouraged from performing massage on patients by the companies they work for because insurance companies do not reimburse as much for massage.  But once in a while, you’ll find a PT who considers massage to be an important part of treatment, and whose place of employment allows him or her to perform it.

I am currently seeing a physical therapist who specializes in massage, and it’s incredibly helpful, convenient, and cost-effective, as my insurance company pays for most of it.  But it took me forever to find her.

Unfortunately, there is no obvious way to find a physical therapist like this.  I would suggest looking for someone who mentions manual therapy or soft tissue release among their techniques.

*Check out Community-Oriented Businesses

I’ve come across a few really awesome places over the years which follow a slightly different model than the traditional spa or health center.

Many of them have had the word “community” in their name, and they place an emphasis on being affordable and accessible to everyone.   These types of places generally offer a sliding scale upfront—everyone pays what they can.

I make it a policy not to post the names of businesses I currently frequent.  (Maybe I’m being paranoid, but the internet freaks me out).

I am, however, comfortable posting the names of businesses in places I no longer live, so here is a place I went for acupuncture when I was in college.  You can check this out as an example of a community-oriented business, and see how it’s a little bit different from other places.

Many businesses that follow the community model offer other services, such as massage, counseling, and nutrition therapy.

*Self-Help Techniques for Muscles

Of course, there are plenty of things you can do for yourself to help ease muscle pain and prolong the length of time you are comfortable between appointments (for example: ice packs, heating pads, and self massage with a tennis ball and other tools).  However, there is so much to say about this that it will have to wait for another post!

Thank you to Foundry Park Inn for the use of the above photo!

4 thoughts on “Breaking up muscle knots, without completely breaking your budget”

  1. Hot baths and Sunlight and self massage seem to help where nothing else would. I haven’t gone to a massage therapist but I’m planning on doing so very soon before I get seriously injured during a lift due to muscle knot tightness.

    Thanks for the article! Btw I really like this font.

    1. Yes, I’ve also found that muscle tightness can affect my ability to maintain the right form while doing my exercises… good for you for keeping an eye on it! Glad you like the font as well :)

  2. I have two more suggestions (which may only be relevant in Australia):
    – Some physiotherapists / physical therapists who are up-to-date on chronic pain management will deliberately not do manual work on chronic patients because it doesn’t help in the long run (massage usually only helps for a few days). But if you have a PT you can ask, making it clear that you know manual work is not a long-term solution and you are happy to keep going with education and exercise therapy, but that a massage will help reduce your stress and give you a reduced-pain window in which to be more active may convince them to do some massage work. See it as relaxation help, not a fix for your pain.
    – I’m lucky enough to have a live-in massage therapist trainee, who also does cheap massages for friends and family as he trains. Find out if there’s anyone in the same situation in your extended social network. If not, massage students who are 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through their course practice at clinics which run out of their training institutions, and offer cheap rates. Students are competent (or they’re not allowed to practice on you!) and supervised, and you’re doing them a service too by helping them get experience with more complex clients. I’ve had a few massages from these places and have always been satisfied.

    1. Great points, Jezzybel! Thanks for commenting– my list seems a little more complete with your suggestions.

      Regarding your first point– I’ve had experiences in the past where I experienced severe pain from a muscle knot that, in the words of my doctor, someone else “might not even notice.” I think that once your nervous system begins to have an overly zealous response to pain, it magnifies the pain coming from what might otherwise be a minor issue.

      It’s kind of a chicken-vs-egg problem: what should you as the healthcare professional do? Most seem to want to take the long-term approach, which, I’m sure, looks right on paper. But when the pain is debilitating– even from a seemingly minor muscle knot– is a strictly long-term approach really best?

      I have more to say on this, but I think I’m actually going to turn it into another post. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment (and glad to see you back in the blog world! :)

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