How to get the Most from Your Massage is a Guest Post by Susan Goreki
Are you a person who has never had a massage and is wondering if you should give it go? Or are you someone who has massage therapy regularly, but you’re wondering if you can get more out of each session? There are a few things you should keep in mind before, during and even after your massage treatment. For someone new to massage these things can be the difference between having a fantastic experience or never wanting to go through it again! For more seasoned massage aficionados, it can help you get more value from your massage experience.
Before your massage:
Yup, that’s right, before you even get on the table there is some homework for you! The first step when wanting to try massage or when looking for a new massage therapist, is to do your research. What type of massage do you want? Are you looking for relaxation, do you have an injury, are there ongoing health or pain issues that you’re dealing with? Are you looking for a straight relaxation massage or a deep tissue massage? Do you want to try Bowen, or Shiatsu, or Manual Lymphatic Drainage?
There really is something for everyone out there in the world of massage. Have a look at the different massage therapists in your area and find out what they offer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find out what you need. Tell the therapist (or their receptionist if they have one), what you’re hoping to gain from your massage and they can help guide you to what you should book in for. No point booking in for a remedial deep tissue massage if you were looking for a relaxing aromatherapy experience.
It’s also important to think about the timing of your massage. Ideally you should make your appointment at a time where you’re not rushing to get there. There is nothing worse than trying to beat peak hour traffic or missing the train and worrying about being late or missing your appointment. It’s always better to give yourself more time to get there, if you’re early you can chill in the waiting room and start winding down and switching off before you even get on the table. Being early to a new massage therapist also gives you time to find great parking, find the loo, and fill in any new client paperwork. It’s also a good idea to make sure your calendar is clear after your massage. Heading back to work, heading to the gym and even heading to a social event is only going undo the good work your massage therapist has done. Aim for a relaxing night in after your appointment.
Perhaps the most important thing to do before your massage is talk to your massage therapist. Even if you’ve had a chat to them on the phone before booking, and even if you see the same person regularly, take a few minutes to let them know what’s going on with you and what you need from the current session. Giving them an idea about your medical history is important. Surgeries, ongoing issues, chronic illness or pain, pregnancy, car accidents, and broken bones are all important (and that’s not an exhaustive list). They also need to know any allergies that might affect the massage – especially if there might be oils or lotions you can’t use. Not a good idea to use sweet almond oil on someone with a severe nut allergy for example! Even if you see that same person regularly, you still need to keep them updated as things change. Any new issues, injuries or problems, even if you’d just like a change in pressure or to focus on a different area. This information can then be used to create a session that is all about you and making you feel awesome.
During your massage:
When getting a massage, the massage therapist does most of the work. That’s idea really – having someone work your muscles and make you feel good. So there’s nothing for you to do right? Well, not quite – there are a few things you can do to make sure you get a fantastic treatment.
Don’t worry about your body. We all do it; we worry about someone seeing our body without its usual covering of clothes. My advice is don’t worry so much, but do talk to your therapist about it if you need to. As far as our body, and its potential wobbly bits, it’s not really something massage therapists tend to pay attention to – we’re more concerned with how the muscles feel and what we’re noticing beneath the skin. Remember too, that the towels are there for a reason. Massage therapists are taught the art of draping – this means that only the area being worked on is uncovered. As far as women with hairy bits and unpainted toes – we also massage men, and they will (almost) always be more hairy and less painted than you will! Again, we’re noticing what’s under the skin, not what’s on top of it.
Remember to relax. This is especially true if you are getting a deep tissue massage. When muscles are tight they get sore. When a sore spot is pressed on, we tend to tense up and hold our breath. It’s a crazy human reflex that is counterproductive. When you tense your muscles two things happen. First, it’s harder for the massage therapist to work on them as we can’t get into the muscle. Second, it hurts more. A good trick to remember is that our muscles tend to relax when we exhale. So when your massage therapist hits a sore trigger point, by taking a deep breath in and then a long exhale out, you help the muscles to release and relax. This also stimulates the relaxation response in the body and helps you to feel more relaxed in general.
A common question people ask me is if I talk to my clients on the table or if I let silence reign. The general answer is I leave it up to the client. If they want to tell me their life story, or ask me about mine, then I go with the flow. If they request no talking or show it by giving very short answers to any questions I ask, I let the session taper into silence. It’s all part of building the experience that best suits the client. Either way, it is important to remember that some communication is important during your massage. Your therapist might ask you if you’re comfortable, or if the pressure is ok. Be honest. If you’re too cold, or too hot the temperature can be adjusted or extra towels can be added. If the pressure is too soft or too hard, it can be modified. But massage therapists are not mind readers – we won’t know unless you tell us. Sometimes there are obvious signs (like a client is shivering or flinching), but it helps if you tell us before it gets to that point. Sometimes you might not be asked, or everything was ok when you were asked but it’s not now. Speak up. A therapist can’t tailor a massage to your needs if you don’t tell them what your needs are. And each session can even be different, depending on what is happening with the client at that point in time.
After your massage:
So now that your massage is all done, that’s it, there’s nothing else for you to do right? Sorry, wrong again! You had a massage for a reason right? It could have been to have some time out, release tight muscles, injury recovery, or a regular ‘tune-up’. Whatever the reason, you want to make sure the benefits are going to last as long as possible don’t you? You don’t want to lose that lovely, relaxed feeling right away do you?
The most important thing is to drink water. A very large percentage of our bodies are made up of water (an average of 60% for an adult). This water helps the body’s circulatory systems (blood and lymphatic) to flush waste product and toxins out of the body. When muscles are tight the circulation through the muscles can be restricted meaning that the regular waste of old cells isn’t cleared out as effectively. By helping the muscles to release, and stimulating the circulation, massage helps to get rid of this build up. Many people find that they need to go to the toilet more frequently after massage; this is a good thing, because it means the body is getting rid of all that waste. However, it also means you are losing valuable water every time you go to pee, so you need to replace it in your body to keep the cycle going.
Take time to rest. Once you get home, put your feet up, read a book, watch some TV, have a nap…whatever helps you to feel good and continue to prolong that feeling of calm. Also remember that your muscles have just been worked and manipulated, similar to an intense work out – this is your time to recover, repair and re-tune yourself. Having a bath, especially one using Epsom salts, will help to ease any aches and pains that might be present after your massage.
I also recommend not doing any intense physical activity after a massage. Heading to the gym, or going for run are not the best options for you right now. Remember, your muscles have just been given a workout (especially if you’ve had deep tissue work), and need time to recover. With the muscles being lengthened and worked, you run the risk of injury if you then go on to do an intense workout. Even more important, you’ve just taken time out to pamper your body…make sure you give yourself the chance to enjoy that feeling. You can go back to your training regime the next day.
Each of these little things can help you to get the best out of each treatment. More importantly, it can help you to keep the benefits going for longer – and we all like value for money right? The final thing to remember, is to talk to your therapist if you need to. Use their expertise to help you get the most out of your treatment.
Susan is a qualified remedial massage therapist who has worked in a variety of settings since 2009. Susan is also trained as an Infant Massage Instructor and loves teaching parents how to connect with their children through the simple act of massage. Meditation is another passion and Susan is currently teaching through an online meditation course, designed with busy people in mind. She is particularly enjoying building her wellness blog and loves the process of writing. Susan shares a range of topics from information on massage and meditation, to body image and living with chronic illness on her blog Mind Body Continuum.