How Often Should You Get A Massage?
One of the most common questions I get from clients is “how often should I get a massage?” Knowing my knee-jerk reaction of “EVERY DAAAY!” isn’t usually a possibility (even for this very self-care-dedicated massage therapist) I usually follow up with the just as unhelpful, “it depends.” The truth is that every body is different and has different needs (and wants) when it comes to massage. The common solution in the massage chain world is to promote once a month massage. While that’s a good frequency for some, it may not be ideal for you. Let’s look at some factors.
Are you dealing with pain?
Whether it’s that old football injury, a chronic issue like that upper back pain you get every day while sitting at your computer, or an acute situation like a car accident or fall, when you’re in pain your need is more urgent. In this case, getting to the massage table once a month isn’t going to cut it. Sure, you’ll feel some relief after each session but it most likely won’t be long lasting and won’t get to the root of your problem. Consider this - you wouldn’t go to the gym once a month and expect any sort of results, right?
If you’ve seen other specialists for your pain issue like a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor, you’ve probably been told that you need to start at a higher frequency of visits and then space them out after a certain amount of time or progress. This isn’t just a cash grab, I promise! Your body is slow to change. Over time, due to injury or postural habits, your muscles have learned to stay in a contracted or tense mode. This didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t go away over an hour on the massage table. It takes time, and the higher frequency at the beginning of treatment enables the muscles to make progress and not slip back to their “normal” tense mode.
For those in pain, I make the suggestion of coming in once or twice a week for a few weeks, then reevaluating and spreading out the sessions. I know that may seem like a lot, but I’m not just pulling it out of my glutes! While clinical research on massage is minimal in general, there are a few studies done on dosage that support this. Check out the citations below!
Is your body working overtime?
Maybe you’re not feeling pain...yet. But your job or lifestyle is highly active and you ask a lot of your body. Or you’re pregnant - congrats! You’re feeling ok now but you want to prevent all those aches and pains throughout your pregnancy that either you’ve experienced before or have heard the horror stories of.
Massage is a wonderful treatment once the pain has set it BUT it’s also an equally wonderful preventative medicine. Massage can help prevent injury and pain by improving the tone, or tension, of your muscles and connective tissue making them more flexible and less susceptible to injury.
In this case, I would suggest massage twice a month. This is where I am! I don’t have any major pain but my job is obviously active. Before I implemented my “twice a month AT LEAST” rule, I was starting to feel stiff and achy every evening. My body and mind both benefit from this frequency of massage.
Do you just need to zone out for an hour?
If your body generally feels good and you’re not regularly putting it under excessive stress, but you do feel the effects of a sometimes chaotic modern life, I would suggest massage at least once a month.
Stress is considered a risk factor for many diseases. While temporary stress can actually be a good thing, most of us live with some form of chronic stress. This manifests in the body as a heightened heart rate, increased blood pressure, and muscle tightness. Guess what can reverse all three of those and more? Do I really need to type it out?
Are you a unicorn?
Your body feels good, you’re not overdoing it, and you don’t feel any stress. Can I have what you’re having? In this case, get a massage when you feel like it and tell me your secrets!
The P Word
Price. Budget. Moolah. I get it. You may feel like this frequency of massage just isn’t in the (credit) cards. Luckily, I already have a blog post published just for you! Check out “The Value of Massage.”
Rapaport MH, Schettler P, and Bresee C. (2012) A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Repeated Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Healthy Individuals: A Study of Mechanisms of Action and Dosage. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. August 2012, 18(8): 789-797.