We have all read and heard about the numerous health benefits of receiving massage therapy. The list is quite long. Massage therapy can help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, pain, headaches, muscle spasms, and increase your circulation, range of motion and flexibility, and boost your immune system. Massage therapy can also help in relieving sore muscles, and reduce recovery time from overworked muscles and aid in the healing of an injury. The list goes on. Massage gives you, the client, such great relief and you leave feeling amazing after each session. So if massage therapy does so many great things for your overall health and well-being, and you feel wonderful afterwards, how often should you be going in to get a massage?
How often you should get a massage varies from person to person, and it may even change for each person over time. There are two main factors the will help determine how often you should be getting a massage.
If you have an injury and your doctor or chiropractor writes you a prescription for massage therapy treatment, you will often start with one or two times a week and then eventually decrease in frequency until it is on a monthly basis or deemed “as necessary” in your recovery. How long it takes to get down to once a month or as necessary is determined by how serious your injury was, and how quickly your body responds to the healing treatments. Again, everyone is different, as is every situation.
If you are a training athlete, doing intense exercises and training to gear up for a big event, it is usually recommended to receive massages 1-2 times a week, while you are in training mode. It is especially a good idea to get the massages on your rest days or after you are done training for the day. You do not want to work out after you received a massage. Training your loose and relaxed muscles could cause injuries and prevent you from participating in your event. When you are not training for a big event, it is a good idea to keep massage incorporated into your routine for recovery and flexibility. Usually 1 or 2 times a month is great for maintenance for an active athlete.
If you are not recovering from an injury or an athlete in training, how often should you still be getting massages? Generally, for maintenance for your overall health and well-being, it is recommended to receive a massage at least once a month. If you can afford to get more massages, do, especially if you have high levels of stress or anxiety. The massages will help you calm down and help you cope with what is going on in your life. I would just not recommend that you receive massages more than a couple days in a row, especially if you receive a deep tissue type of massage. Your body will need recovery time between sessions to adjust to the bodywork that was done. If once a month is too expensive for your budget, aim for a massage every other month. Still having a hard time swallowing the out of pocket cost? See if your massage therapist has any package deals to help reduce the pricing for your massages. If that is still too much, talk to your therapist to see if they can work anything else out to allow you to get your much needed massages.
When determining how often you should be getting a massage, take into consideration your reasons for getting the massage, what your budget can afford, and what makes the most sense for you. It is very individualized. The more often you get massages, the more you will be aware of your body and its needs. Learn to listen to your body and book a massage when you need it. Pre-booking your appointments out in advance is the best, so you do not end up feeling the desperate need of a massage and not being able to get in with your therapist. It also helps reduce your stress levels by knowing you have a massage coming up.
In the past I talked to you about some stretches that may be beneficial to you in relieving some of your aches and pains, in between massage appointments. Obviously I am a big proponent of self-care, I like to practice what I preach, and I like to share some of my insights with you.
With that being said, my favorite form of self-care is receiving massages. I am not saying that because I am a Massage Therapist, but because I, too, get regular massages. I have made a point to get a massage at least once a month for over 5 years now for my own health benefits. When I can, I squeeze in a second massage during the month. If I could, I would go much more often, as I love massages, but since that is often difficult to do, I have learned a few helpful tips to help prolong the effects of my massage sessions.
1. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! You all hear me say it after every session as I hand you a bottle of water to drink. Drink it. When you get home, drink more water. Your muscles need it. The massage dehydrates you and, just like after any good workout, you need to rehydrate your muscles to keep them from tightening back up. This will also help reduce any sore and achy muscles you may feel the days following the massage.
2. Do not do anything that is physically excessive or heavy the rest of the day. You may feel like a new person when you get off the table, but do not go run 5 miles, lift heavy weights at the gym, or do several hours of laborious yard or house work. You are more likely to injure yourself when your body is in this relaxed and loose muscled state. Give yourself the rest of the day to embrace the effects of your massage.
3. Rest. This goes along with #2. Take it easy the rest of the day, but do not flop down on the couch and not move for hours. Your muscles still need movement to keep them fluid. Doing some light stretches and walking around will do wonders for you muscles and body. Simply relax and enjoy the free movement of your happy body.
4. Acknowledge the fact you just did something wonderful for yourself. This may sound funny, but it works. Recognize that you took the time to take care of yourself. Appreciate that you took the time. Embrace this fact and enjoy how you are currently feeling after each session. Carry that to bed with you at the end of the day. You will wake up feeling more revitalized.
I hope that you find these little tips helpful in prolonging the effects of your massage sessions. As always, I am here for your massaging needs and want to help you feel and function at your best.
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.