I can’t tell you how many times I have asked a new client how often they receive massage and the answer is, “Once every 3-5 years.” This blows my mind because, while some people may see massage as a treat or luxury, it is actually a necessity that your body requires on a regular basis. The more often you receive massage, the easier it will be for you to maintain good health. The truth is, massage is no longer a luxury.
In the days of desk jobs and computer dependence, it is more important than ever for you to receive massage on a regular basis. Many health insurance companies will now cover the costs of massage as part of your health savings account because they realize how necessary it is. In today’s technologically driven world, we spend far too much time sitting at a desk hunched over a keyboard. These prolonged periods of sitting can lead to shortened and overworked muscles in both your chest and core. Massage can improve your posture which will help alleviate your constant aches and pains as well as improve your breathing. Regular massage can help to improve your muscle memory and loosen the strain on these muscle groups. This will help to retrain the opposing muscles in your shoulders and back effectively improving your posture, making more room for your lungs to expand, and relieving chronic back, neck, and shoulder pains. It is hard to retrain and maintain proper posture if you are only receiving massage once every few months or years.
Beyond retraining muscles to improve upon chronic pain, massage has a wealth of other benefits. Massage releases endorphins which are your body’s natural mood booster and can lead to a reduction in the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Did you know that your body only has two states of being? As humans, we are hard wired to be in either fight-or-flight mode or rest-and-digest. With all of the stressors of our current world and lifestyle, we are spending far too much time in fight-or-flight mode. Computers, cell phones, traffic, alarm clocks, balancing work and home life are all contributors to a stressful lifestyle. Massage helps to relax you and put you into the rest-and-digest mode so that your body and mind can heal. Being in the rest-and-digest stage can help to strengthen your immune system by lowering the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your body. In fact, a recent study made by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, showed that one of the benefits of massage is its ability to reduce levels of cortisol by over 53%. The study also showed that massage increases your body’s dopamine and serotonin levels; these are the “happy” chemicals released by your body when it is relaxed.
Massage also reduces swelling after injuries or surgeries and can even help to prevent injuries from happening. Have you ever wondered why you often see so many Olympic and professional athletes receiving massage just before or after an event? Massage can help improve athletic performance and recovery. Massage actually helps rid the muscle groups of dead tissue in order to make room for new, healthy tissue growth. By receiving massage after an event, your tissues can better flush out the lactic acid which can cause cramps in your muscles and lead to injury. Massage can improve circulation and flexibility and it can help to eliminate toxins from your system and improve your skin. Eliminating toxins can improve the function of your internal organs and digestion.
There have been numerous medical studies performed by such institutions as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, University of Colorado, Duke University, and Emory University to test the effects of massage on diseases and ailments ranging from sports injury to depression and anxiety. Some of the benefits of massage found in these studies include: reduced stress, reduced depression, reduced anxiety, relief from headaches, increased regularity in digestion, relief from fibromyalgia pain, improved sleep, tissue repair in injuries, and relief in temporomandibular joint pain (TMJD). Massage may even help you lose weight and reduce cellulite. It has even been shown that stimulation of the lymph nodes during massage recharges the body’s natural defense system and increases the number of white blood cells produced in the body effectively boosting your immune system.
Of course, there are many different types of massage and not all of these benefits will be felt in a single massage session which is why it is best to speak with your therapist about the needs you are hoping to meet from every session. Massage therapy actually consists of several modalities ranging from energy work to deep physical rehabilitation. It is important to do your research in order to find a therapist that will fit your needs and is well trained in their specialty. After all, you wouldn’t see an eye doctor for a broken ankle, would you? This is why the staff at Symmetry asks so many questions when booking your massage. We want to ensure that we place you with a therapist that is trained to properly address your specific issues so that you leave feeling renewed and positive about your new health approach.
Receiving massage once a month is a good starting point if you are healthy. However, depending on your stress load and activity level, the amount of optimal time between sessions may be more or less frequent. Typically, your therapist will recommend you come in once every two weeks to ensure that your muscle tissue remains pliable and easy to work with. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, or are hoping to work out a specific issue, or undo years of bad postural habits, it may be necessary for you to come in more frequently until the issue is at a more manageable level. When working towards a specific goal, your therapist will usually recommend you visit frequently enough that you are still feeling the positive effects from the last session. In this way, each massage continues to build on the positive change of the last without having to repeat much of the same work over again each time.
Remember, it is never wrong to ask your therapist for a recommendation on how often you should come back. A great therapist will tell you upfront how often they feel they optimally need to see you in order to continue your treatment plan. It is also important to realize that if you fall off of your treatment plan, it may take several sessions to catch you back up again. The wonderful thing about the human body having muscle memory is that once you are retrained, it takes fewer sessions to keep you in that healthy postural habit. That means that you can live your best life and not have to be in pain between sessions.
To recap, massage is more than relaxation and is beneficial to many vital systems in your body. Just as it is necessary to see a doctor once a year for a health check, it is necessary to receive massage on a regular basis to maintain your health. You may even find that your health improves drastically once you maintain a regular massage schedule of every three to four weeks. You know when you get on a flight and the flight attendant reminds you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before securing the masks of those around you? The same concept applies to massage and self-care; if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t really help others. So remember, love yourself, get massage, feel great! See you in a couple of weeks!
“Caring for your body, mind, and spirit is your greatest and grandest responsibility. It's about listening to the needs of your soul and then honoring them.” – Kristi Ling