While massage has been around for thousands of years, it seems like more and more people are finally taking advantage of its many health benefits. From focusing on improving circulation to emphasizing lymphatic drainage, there is a type of massage for almost every need. With thousands of certified therapists, massage can be practiced safely and effectively and is widely available in most areas.
Massages can help:
- Relieve chronic pain
- Reduce the effects of stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Speed recovery from injuries
- Optimize an athlete’s game
Plus, it feels good! While a massage sounds like something you should have as often as possible, to maintain its benefits, you may not need one as often as you think. It all depends on your goals, lifestyle, and general state of health.
Wellness and Relaxation
Even for the healthiest person, massage offers major benefits like:
- Calming the central nervous system
- Increasing circulation
- Elongating tight muscles
- Loosening toxins from the tissues for elimination
- Boosting immunity
If you’re just looking to enhance your health or want occasional respite from everyday stress and strain, scheduling a massage once or twice a month will probably suffice.
For those who work in a high-stress environment or have daily activities that risk causing repetitive-motion injuries or postural issues, weekly sessions might be best. Keep in mind that the effects of regular massage are cumulative, and spacing them too far apart might leave you back at square one every time.
Optimizing Athletic Performance
For athletes, massage can both enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury by balancing muscle groups and increasing joint mobility. The process of lengthening contracted muscles and releasing myofascial adhesions is rarely a one-shot deal, and serious athletes may need two or more sessions a week to stay in top shape. Many professional teams have therapists on staff for that very reason, but the more casual athlete may not have the resources to be massaged that often.
For the average athletic person, it depends on your training schedule and whether or not you haven chronic muscle issues. One or two massages a month may be enough during lighter training periods, increasing frequency as workouts intensify.
Never schedule deep tissue massage less than five days before a big event. It can cause soreness and changes in body mechanics that can throw you off your game. Stick with circulation-boosting massage such as Swedish or Abhyanga immediately before and after a big event—it helps flush out lactic acid build-up and speeds recovery.
Overly contracted muscles often cause chronic pain, from migraine to sciatica, and more. In general, weekly sessions are recommended, but much depends on how you feel. If your pain starts to return within a few days, it’s time for another massage. If you are still pain free a week later, maybe you can spread your sessions out.
Most people find that they need more frequent sessions to start, slowly decreasing frequency as their muscles elongate and relax. Some therapists will also suggest stretches you can do at home to maintain muscle balance longer between sessions.
Massage is often recommended after injury or surgery. It can help:
- Reduce pain, minimizing the need for pain medication
- Inhibit swelling by moving lymph
- Break up scar tissue
- Hasten the healing process by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen
Always check with your doctor before getting a massage. It may not be the best treatment option after an injury or surgery or may be limited to particular modalities. For example, deep tissue massage would be a bad idea for someone on blood thinners or with an acute injury, but lymphatic drainage massage could be helpful. Once you’re given clearance, two sessions a week or more may be needed to start, with frequency decreasing as healing and recovery progress.
Making it Affordable
The biggest deterrent to routine massage is usually the cost, which can vary on average from $60 to 125 per hour, depending on where you live and your therapist’s qualifications. Always look for a state or nationally certified therapist with a minimum of 500 hours training. “Bargain” massages with a poorly trained therapist may not give you the full benefits you seek, and worse yet, could result in injury.
It’s rare for health insurance to cover massage, but not unheard of, so check your current plan. If you are seeking massage for disability or accident rehabilitation, and you have a referral from a doctor or chiropractor, you may be able to get reimbursed. Physician-prescribed massage is also often an acceptable expense for health savings plans.
Most reputable practitioners, spas, and wellness centers offer either membership plans or package deals with deeply discounted prices. Don’t invest in one until you’ve found a therapist you like, but once you do, it’s well worth it. The mind and body benefits you receive may save you from more costly medical expenses in the long run.