There is a burning question on the lips of both veterans and newcomers to the ‘massage therapy as self-care’ path...”how often should I come for massage?”. Because every person’s daily grid, activity level, and stress level is vastly different, there truly is no perfect ‘one size fits all’ answer to blanket the population with. So, I want to invite you to this conversation to share the empowering way I explain the frequency dance to my clients, and the various factors to take in to account when you are trying to determine your own frequency.
Perhaps you stand with a portion of the population who has challenges in seeing how the dots connect Massage Therapy as a self-care practice. That’s okay! You won’t be shunned or cast out because of that. Your stance may come from the same place mine did once upon a time – my early years growing up, a massage in my household was considered a light, relaxing luxury that was only “enjoyed” while on vacation at “The Resort”. Back then it was thought that there were no medical or physiological benefits from massage therapy above relaxing (yes, I am totally dating myself). It was just a splurge item. Fast forward several years where studies began to emerge depicting true, physiological and psychological datapoints displaying how the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, our immune system is bolstered, our pain and inflammatory responses are calmed, our sleep patterns normalized, our blood pressure lowered, AND our stress levels plummeted – this was real meat and potatoes to chew on (apologies to any vegans reading), finally lending credence to Massage Therapy Professionals across the globe. The medical community began referring clients for massage therapy. Hospitals launched whole units dedicated to pre- and post- surgical massage therapy as it is shown to speed the healing process. Oncology massage therapy became a ‘thing’, and Massage Therapists study and specialize in working with those in active cancer treatment – a far cry from the once subscribed notion of massage actually spreading the cancer cells though the body and was therefore contraindicated. We’ve come a long way, baby!
You could be a member of the population who has tried everything under the sun for your frozen shoulder/PCOS/low back pain/stress/PTSD, anxiety, etc. – every medication, physical therapist, specialist, shot, so-forth and so-on under the sun and found that Massage Therapy is where you got the biggest bang for your buck and now, you are wondering how often you should be visiting your Massage Therapist. The following factors should be taken consideration to determine that.
AWAY FROM THE TABLE SELF-CARE
This is the first and really big thing to consider. What steps do you take when you are away from the massage table to care for yourself? Do you go to the gym? Do you walk? Do you Yoga? Do you run after small children? Do you embark on streaming service marathons? Maybe your self-care consists of “accidental exercise” (a phrase one of my long-time friends coined to indicate when she was forced to park a long distance from the store she was shopping at or even being intimate with her partner...that one always makes me chuckle). There is no perfect answer here – so please, give yourself some leeway without incorporating negative self talk. All the “coulda, shoulda, woulda” ‘s in the world are not useful or constructive in this instance, so be gentle with yourself.
I’ve come to learn – both through my education and my personal (non-existent for soooo many years in my ‘previous life’) that something is better than nothing – but several things are better than one. I liken it to driving a car on a road with a few inches of snow on it. If everyone drives in a different spot, the snow packs down, making a flatter surface which doesn’t pull your tires in to the gully. Sure, it allows for greater traction on a somewhat bare-ish surface BUT...., by driving in the tire tracks laid out before you, when it comes time to turn in a different direction, its tough to get out of the track. So, by doing the same thing (perhaps with the exception of Yoga) over and over again, your muscles become conditioned to staying in the track. Then, one day you decide to take a new turn – raking the leaves in the yard or going on a 3 mile hike when you have spent the past several months walking in your very level neighborhood on a paved sidewalk, your muscles tend to talk back in a very unpleasant way. You feel sore or broken or like you need to be ‘fixed’ – whatever way you label it, you don’t feel 100%. A really big take-away from this point is: your Massage Therapist is a Tour Guide on your journey to feeling better – they are not the fixer. Massage Therapy is a team sport as-it-were and the work done in every session builds upon the previous session as well as what you do or don’t do away from the table. If you have ever baked a cake, think of it this way...your daily/weekly fitness & self-care routine are the dry ingredients of the recipe while the work your Massage Therapist performs in the treatment space are eggs and oil of the recipe. If you neglected to add or skimp on the baking soda, would you expect the cake to rise? If you forgot the vanilla or sugar, would it be as tasty? I bet you know where I’m going with my thought 😉
WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?
Do you make time to press pause on the busy goings on of your life? Let’s consider how many of us are working from home these days. It is very challenging to live in balance when the dining table has been repurposed as the office. Work looms large in the space that used to be your sanctuary. If you don’t have the opportunity to work from home and do go to a physical job, you are undoubtedly facing long hours due to what has been dubbed as ‘The Great Resignation’. You are an army of one fighting the battle requiring an army of five (or more – eeeek!). Regardless of your work location, stress enters our lives swiftly and feverishly, causing our shoulders to raise to our ears (wonder why your upper back is so tight all the time?), or sparking the incessant headache that you can’t seem to shake. Are you remediating that stress with physical activity? Do you invest the time in yourself to draw a bath with some Epsom salts (and maybe a nice herbal tea or pour an enjoyable glass of resveratrol aka ‘reverse-it-all’ aka wine)? Do you meander in the forest to raise your energetic vibration or play in the dirt of your garden, absorbing the minerals and nutrients from mother earth? Having raised two children as a single mum and working full time, I get how high the hurdles are between you and the pause button. I’m here to tell you though – you are worth it!
THE FINANCIAL COMMITMENT
Everyone has a different financial landscape with very individual hills, valleys, twists, and turns that need to figure into the budget. Yes, I said the ‘B’ word – but it is true. There is a financial commitment to consider. In a perfect world we would go back to the days when all that is considered ‘health care’ is covered 100% with zero out of pocket costs. Although Massage Therapy is accounted for in very few plans and only by a handful of health insurance providers, they are the exception as opposed to the rule. Now, I am the last person who will stand on a soap box shouting how what is spent on that super-sized, extra foam, mega flavor added, fair trade, small batch roasted cup of energy you get every day can be reallocated to blah, blah, blah. Because for many of us, we consider that our own form of self-care...or even self-preservation (Hello, my name is Kim and I’m one of them). What I am saying, is if you feel as though you benefit from more frequent massage, it is important that you don’t go broke trying to make that happen – that brings on a whole other level of stress that you’re trying to remediate through massage. Find the balance in your life which allows all that you want to accomplish to come to you.
An important note I want to add before you go off to look at your schedule to book your next appointment – If you find yourself in a situation where you feel more frequent Massage Therapy would help to get you closer to your wellness goal, but your schedule or finances don’t align with that provider you connect with, have a conversation with them. Collaborate. Discuss whether there are advantages to shorter, more focused sessions vs. longer full-body sessions. Perhaps there are stretches or techniques that you can incorporate into your routine that will maximize the ‘work on the table’. Never feel weird about asking your Massage Therapists for hints, tricks, etc., for you to incorporate at home to help you feel closer to your 100% self; in fact, more often than not your Massage Therapist will share those strategies with you before you leave your session.
Now, go hydrate (no, coffee is not considered water because it is made with water), stretch, and consider yoga to keep the full potential of your range of motion with you after your 'table time'; heck, even football players have a yoga practice, you know.
Wellness & Blessings
Kim is an always thinking, sometimes creative, and self-declared master of cliché comparisons. In her second career as a Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master-Teacher, Polarity Therapy Practitioner, Herbalist, and Meditation Guide, she has finally stepped into her dream role of helping people find their ideal wellness. Kim is the mother of two amazing, talented, caring, and compassionate adult children, daughter to her New England Patriots fanatic mother, and just has that knack for intuitively knowing what burning questions you have about life, massage therapy and energy work. Kim's blog topics range from everyday observations to thoughtfully researched topics - with everything in between.