I think it safe to say most people love massages, but I also think a lot of people think of massages as “pampering.” I know when I am going in for a massage, I am not thinking about pampering or even excited for that matter, because I know it’s going to be uncomfortable! I think of it as recovery and “fixing” the damage that I have done to my soft tissues through working out, sitting, sleeping and just being a human in general. I have had a variety of types of massages and for me, the only kind that make any kind of improvements are DEEP tissue. By improvements, I mean how I feel over the next few days— if the pain is gone, if my mobility is better, etc.
Last week I talked about the health benefits I experience through chiropractic, which are so incredible that I can now feel when I have a subluxation and when there is pressure on my nerves. Now the interesting thing about muscles is they are, in fact, controlled by your nerves! So if you allow pressure to sit on your nerves, your muscles will not respond as well because they are not getting the information they need to do what it is you would like them to do. This is why chiropractic and massage work so well together— one does NOT replace the other. Chiropractic addresses your bones and structure, while massage works on your soft tissues. Therefore, once you have removed the pressure off your nerves, you will still need to address the damage that has been done to the soft tissues.
For some more information, I reached out to licensed massage therapist Michelle Fisher.
Michelle, much of the time people consider massages to be more for pampering and not as something they should be doing regularly. What is your take on this?
Like exercising regularly, the more bodywork you receive on a regular basis, the more you’ll really notice the advantages. Some benefits include helping to reduce stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels (which can break down muscle and increase body fat!), reduce pain and inflammation, increase energy, strengthen your immune system, stimulate internal organs, increase flexibility, reduce scar tissue from surgeries or injuries, alleviate headaches, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Should a massage be painful when you’re getting one?
Many people perceive massages such as deep tissue to be painful, but a massage should never hurt. Pain does not equal effectiveness. Everyone has a pain threshold and that is part of a therapist’s job to communicate where that threshold is. It’s OK to feel discomfort or intense sensations when a tight area is being worked on, but once it feels like it’s too much or you tense up— then it’s too much pressure! Remember to breathe normally throughout any session.
How do I know what is the right type of massage for me?
If you want to book a massage and have no idea what you’re getting into, it’s helpful to do some research first on what styles of massage are out there. While exploring the different modalities, do a self scan on how each part of your body is feeling. If you have chronic pains, a deep tissue may be for you. Have a regular exercise program or are training for a sport? Sports massage is a good choice. Not sure but don’t want to just relax? Get a therapeutic massage that incorporates techniques from all modalities!
Why are massages so important for recovery and wellness?
Massages are proven to accelerate recovery after any form of exercise. While building muscle, micro tears occur, creating inflammation and can be accompanied with pain or soreness. Massage helps to stimulate the cells that begin the repairing process, creating more oxygen and blood flow to be pumped into the muscles, promoting healing and growth.
What are the knots you feel in your muscles?
The knots we feel in our muscles are adhered or contracted muscles. When we over work, under work or don’t hydrate our muscles enough, the muscle fibers become strained and stick together. To help prevent knots, be sure to hydrate, stretch/take breaks during the day, eat healthy and get massages consistently to reduce what has already built up.
Massages can get expensive. What is the best way to keep costs down, but get the most bang for your buck?
If you’re unable to get back in for a massage within two to four weeks, self-care is key. Talk to your therapist to determine what the most beneficial care plan is based on your need and budget. If you want to have some fun with it, you can take a couple’s course to learn techniques to work on your significant other or friends to help maintain at home!
What are some at-home massages that anyone can do and how often should they do it?
Some therapists offer sessions where they teach you to work on your significant other or friends in your own home. If you prefer to work on yourself, or no one is around to help, any fashion of rubbing, friction or kneading is helpful for the area. My favorite for working on my own back is lying on the floor and placing a tennis ball where I feel discomfort (being sure to avoid bony prominences) and relaxing as much as I can on top of the ball until the discomfort dissipates.
When is the best time to schedule a massage? Morning, night? Anytime?
It varies person to person. Some love to start their day at 6:00 a.m. with a massage; others need a few hours to get moving or get their morning workout in, while some only have the option to come in the later hours after work. Everybody is different, so it depends on what each individual enjoys for their day.
What can you expect to feel after a massage?
Results can vary depending on the type and length of massage. At times you may feel energized, loose, renewed or centered. Other times you may feel a bit tired and ready for a nap. It’s common to feel a bit sore for a day or two. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, it could be a sign of dehydration and you need to drink plenty of water.
What should you do after a massage?
Drinking water is always important. In addition to re-hydrating, your therapist should provide information on how to maintain the progress of your session, especially if it’s therapeutic-based. Depending on your specific needs, you may want to use ice if you had deeper work done. You may also be instructed on how to perform various stretches as well as correct utilization of a foam roller, and different techniques using a myofascial release ball, tennis ball or lacrosse ball depending on the intensity desired. And of course, rest if possible!
What should you NEVER do after a massage?
Avoid any strenuous activities for 12-24 hours following a massage. You may be too tired after a massage to get the most out of a workout or a physically demanding job. You also run the risk of injury since the muscles become so relaxed, especially if you get deeper work done.