The benefits of massage are many, including: increasing circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, stimulating lymph flow and boosting immunity, relaxing overused or tight muscles, increasing joint mobility and range of motion, reducing recovery time after strenuous workouts or surgery, and relieving back pain and migraines, just to name a few. After receiving a massage, clients feel rejuvenated, relaxed, and refreshed. By opting for a few lifestyle choices, you can extend these benefits and get the most out of your massage.
1. What should I expect during my first massage therapy visit?
Your massage therapist will require you to fill out a health history form. Afterwards the therapist will begin by asking you general questions to establish what areas you would like worked on, if there are any conditions needing to be addressed and to determine if massage is appropriate for you. Your massage therapist may perform certain assessments and testing to evaluate your condition, and to see if you have any presenting complaints.
2. Where will my massage session take place?
Your massage or bodywork session will take place in a large, warm, comfortable, quiet room. Soft lighting and soothing music may be played to help you relax. You will lie on a heated table especially designed for your comfort, with soft linens.
3. What do I wear during the massage?
Depending on the primary technique your therapist uses, you may or may not need to undress. For a full body massage, most people undress completely. However, you may choose to wear underwear. Your massage therapist will give you privacy to undress, and you will be covered with a sheet and blanket at all times except the area being worked on.
4. What do I do during a massage therapy treatment?
Make yourself comfortable. If your therapist wants you to adjust your position, she will either move you or will ask you to move what is needed. Otherwise, change your position anytime to make yourself more comfortable. Many people close their eyes and relax completely during a session; others prefer to talk. It's up to you. It is your massage, and whatever feels natural to you is the best way to relax. Do not hesitate to ask questions at any time.
5. How will a massage feel?
It usually depends on the techniques used. Many massage therapists use a form of Swedish massage, which is often a baseline for practitioners. In a general Swedish massage, your session may start with broad, flowing strokes (effleurage) that will help calm your nervous system and relax exterior muscle tension. As your body becomes relaxed, pressure will gradually be increased to relax specific areas and relieve areas of muscular tension. Often, a light oil or lotion is used to allow your muscles to be massaged without causing excessive friction to the skin. Do not hesitate to ask questions or mention if you feel any discomfort so that the massage therapist can use another approach or technique.
6. Will the massage oils used make me break-out?
Most massage therapists use hypoallergenic massage oils or lotions. However, if you have sensitivity to certain types of oils or lotion please bring it to the massage therapist's attention as most practitioners have an assortment of oils and lotions on hand.
7. Is a massage always appropriate?
No, there are several medical conditions that would make massage inappropriate. That's why it is necessary that you fill out the health history forms and before you begin your session. The massage therapist will ask general health questions to rule out if you have any contraindications to massage. It is very important that you inform the practitioner of any health problems or medications you are taking. If you are under a doctor's care, it is strongly advised that you receive a written recommendation for massage prior to any session. Your massage therapist may require a recommendation or approval from your doctor.
The following are contraindications to massage:
During the first three months of pregnancy
High temperature/fever Open wounds, cuts and bruising Inflammation
Varcoise veins, or history of thrombosis
infectious skin diseases
Cancer Broken bones / Fractures
Acute back pain
Other chronic conditions and diseases
8. How long will a massage treatment last?
The average full-body massage treatment lasts approximately one hour. A half-hour appointment only allows time for a partial massage session, such as neck and shoulders, back or legs and feet. Many people prefer a 60- to 90-minute session for optimal relaxation. Always allow relaxation time prior to and after the session.
9. How will I feel after the massage therapy treatment?
Most people feel very relaxed. Some experience freedom from long-term aches and pains developed from tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of feeling slowed down, people often experience increased energy, heightened awareness, and greater productivity which can last for days. Since toxins are released from your soft tissues during a massage, it is recommended you drink plenty of water following your massage. Massage therapists sometimes recommend a hot Epsom salt bath with Apple Cider Vinegar that encourages the release of toxins that may have been stirred up from the massage treatment.
Get the most out of your massage
A massage works in wonderful ways, easing stress and pain, calming the nervous system, increasing circulation, loosening tight muscles, stimulating internal organs, and enhancing skin. The multiplicity of physiological responses sends a simple, clear message to the mind: Massage feels good. Of course, you want to hold on to that just-had-a-massage feeling -- total body relaxation, muscles relaxed and at ease, and fluid movement restored -- for as long as possible.
But how long that bliss lasts depends on the state of your body. If you're suffering from chronic pain or recovering from injury, then it may take more sessions and perhaps different modalities before optimal health is restored.
If massage is part of your regular health regimen, then it's more likely the effects will endure. In other words, the effects of massage are cumulative, like any healthy habit. The more often you get a massage, the greater and longer-lasting the benefits.
Massage Frequency How often you receive massage depends on why you're seeking massage. In dealing with the general tension of everyday commutes, computer work, and time demands, a monthly massage may be enough to sustain you. On the other hand, if you're seeking massage for chronic pain, you may need regular treatments every week or two. Or if you're addressing an acute injury or dealing with high levels of stress, you may need more frequent sessions. Your situation will dictate the optimum time between treatments, and your practitioner will work with you to determine the best course of action.
"You need to consider how you felt before the session and how you felt after, and then look at how long you maintain that," says Pieter Sommen, the chair of the eastern department in the Swedish Institute School of Massage Therapy in New York.
In general, experts say "regular" is preferable, but how regular depends on your situation. While daily massage would be delightful, practical considerations such as cost, time, and physical need likely determine the frequency of treatments. "It's best to maintain a schedule," says Eeris Kallil, CMT, a shiatsu instructor at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Colorado. "That way the body becomes conditioned and prepared for session at specific intervals."
Maintenance Whether you get a massage weekly, monthly, or just every once in a while, the following habits can maximize and extend the afterglow of treatment.
Water One bit of advice you'll hear over and over again is to drink plenty of water after a massage. Bodywork -- no matter the particular modality -- releases toxins, such as lactic acid and carbonic acid, that need to be flushed from the body. Massage also promotes circulation, increasing blood flow and oxygen and stimulating the lymphatic system, which helps rid the body of pathogens. After-massage hydration supports these functions, helping to eliminate released impurities, sooner rather than later.
Stretching Another helpful habit is stretching between massages to maintain joint mobility, prevent muscles from tightening up again, and keeping the life energy flowing. This may mean doing yoga or whatever specific or full-body stretches suggested by your practitioner. After a shiatsu session, for example, your practitioner may recommend "makko-ho" stretches, a series of six exercises designed to keep energy circulating. "This series of stretches take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes a day, but really help keep the chi flowing through the body," says Kallil.
Exercise Working out can also help maintain the benefits of massage, and this habit should be continually cultivated. However, if you're receiving massage therapy to help speed muscle strain recovery, you may need to ease up on the exercise for a while and give the body time to heal -- particularly if you're recovering from a strenuous body-pummeling training regimen. "You don't want to over-work your body," says Kallil. That is, if running is taking a toll, try something more gentle and meditative such as swimming, walking, or tai chi.
Body Awareness After a massage, respect how your body feels. If your body seems to ask for rest, give in to that demand. This may mean backing off the to-do list, taking it easy, moving slower, and perhaps doing less for a while. And don't allow yourself to get fatigued because it will undermine the effects of massage. Get sufficient sleep to allow the body to absorb the effects and regain vitality.
Diet Finally, since you've just rid the body of toxins, support the body's renewed state by adhering to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which will continue the detoxification process. Lay off the espresso and all adrenaline-challenges for a time -- which would short-circuit relaxation anyway -- and enjoy the calm.