How Often Should You Get A Massage
As a massage therapist, this is a question I get asked by almost every client and it’s one of the hardest to answer. How often an individual should get a massage depends on a variety of factors. Do you workout? Do you warm up properly? Do you stretch after your workouts? How efficient are your biomechanics? Do you have a weakness or injury causing other areas of your body to overcompensate? Even something as simple as drinking enough water can affect how your body responds to daily life and whether you need a massage twice a week or twice a year. Here’s how to tell if YOU need a massage.
- You consume caffeine regularly. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes you flush out fluid. In essence, it dehydrates you. When your muscles and fascia become dehydrated, the fibers start sticking together, which restricts movement and can even create pain. Enough fibers stick together and you feel it as “a knot.” Just re-hydrating doesn’t get rid of the knot, the fibers have to be separated mechanically by compression, friction, or tension.
- You don’t stretch after you workout. Muscles tighten as the body cools down. If you start stretching while your body is still warm and continue while you cool off, you maintain the length of the fibers, increasing flexibility. If you don’t stretch, the muscles tighten and then as your body rebuilds the proteins, the muscle is “rebuilt” in the new tight position. Fascia is constantly being broken down and rebuilt and as the muscle shortens, the fascia will fill in and grow tighter as well.
- You spend most of your time sitting. I read an article recently that talked about how the average teenager now spends around 17 hours per day sitting. How much time do we sit as adults? We sit while we eat breakfast, sit in the car going to work, sit for 8+ hours at the job, sit in the car again going home, sit and eat dinner, sit while you read the newspaper or watch reality TV. You get the idea. All this sitting causes an overwhelming shortening of the front sides of our bodies. The quads, hip flexors, abdominals, and front of the shoulder get short and tight. As a result, the back side has to work harder to stretch you back out to standing, leading to knots, inflammation, and possibly even strained muscles in the back. On top of this, the front side tightness causes our biomechanics to suffer, leading to bad movement quality, which in turn creates more muscle imbalances and leads to pain. In this case, massage is only part of the solution – you also need to start moving more and sitting less.
- You eat a lot of processed foods. Stop at McDonald’s for breakfast on the way to work? How about Starbucks? Whatever you’re eating, if it isn’t organic, whole foods, you are also going to be taking in a variety of chemicals. “But, Kelly, I eat all the sugar-free, low-fat, diet foods so I can stay healthy.” You know what that really means? With all the chemicals replacing the fats, sugars, etc… you may as well hand your kindergarden child a chemistry set and ask them to make dinner. Guess what those chemicals do to your body. They dehydrate you, mess up your hormones, create inflammation. Some of the stuff they put in food to give it a longer shelf life is the same stuff they put on corpses to prevent them from rotting before the funeral! If this is your diet, massage can help flush those toxins from the soft tissues of your body, stimulate blood flow to help re-hydrate the tissue, and stimulate the immune response to control the inflammation. It won’t give you good health, but it will help you at least feel a little better.
- You are an athlete. If you are training seriously for any kind of competitive sport, a massage is great before the competition for improving performance, or afterwards for faster recovery. No matter what your sport is, a massage can help by releasing tension, improving mobility, and improving circulation through the tissues.
There are other reasons to get a massage, including that they just feel good. Whatever your reason is, call your massage therapist and get an appointment. Investment in your health is the best investment you can make!