Both massage and needling are useful and practical solutions to muscle pain, but when to use which therapy is a question that I get asked a lot - and mostly about posture-related tight neck and shoulders.
Massage works by physically manipulating muscle and connective tissue - by stretching shortened muscles and moulding tight fascia. Unlike dry needling, massage benefits damaged tendons; breaks apart lipomas and other inconsistencies; and promotes blood and lymph circulation through the joint. Massage is a great therapy, but it is limited in treating deep muscles or structures that are underneath bone (such as the supraspinatus tendon).
Needling, on the other hand, works by stimulating the nervous supply of a muscle, causing a muscle to release - not by mechanically stretching it - but by enticing the nervous system to relax it naturally. Needling gets to deeper muscles that massage can't get to, but it doesn't treat tendon or connective tissue injuries as efficiently as massage does.
From a purely anatomical perspective, use massage for superficial muscles, and needling for deeper muscles.
Aside from anatomy, however, there's one other aspect to consider - inflammation. Depending on the injury, inflammation might be beneficial (in the case of a rigid, spasmed trapezius) or counter-productive (in the event of a cervicogenic migraine). Massage will cause inflammation whereas needling won't.
Unless you want to explore inflammation by a painful process of trial and error, you need to speak to you sports health professional about this aspect of treatment.
For more information on warm-ups, email me directly via the contact page. For specific information on an injury you have, or for treatment, contact one of my clinics directly. You can find that information here.
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Dr Mitch Clark