Do you love getting a massage, but find you are back where you started after only a day or two? Do you wish you could magically make it hold longer before the tension or chronic aches kick in again? The good news is that you can – if you do the right things in-between massages.
After every massage, I give my clients advice and homework to ensure their treatment holds for as long as possible. No matter what you need a massage for, I will work with you to give you as much relief as possible. As much as I love all my clients, my goal is to get them to a point where they don’t need to see me as much as time goes by. There are a number of ways to do this, including stretching, strength building and becoming more mindful of your posture.
Here are some of my top tips to help your massage results hold longer.
1. Understand whether your problem is physical or emotional
Ensuring you receive the right type of massage treatment will provide you with targeted benefits. If you are having trouble sleeping or you are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed, studies have shown that regular massage can be helpful. Swedish massage relaxes the body and soul by removing toxins, increasing the release of endorphins and helping you learn to relax the parts of the body where you hold tension.
If this is the case for you, combining your regular massage treatment with calming techniques such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing can have amazing effects. Being present and calm for as little as ten minutes each day will build on the success of an occasional massage alone.
If you are feeling physical pain, restriction in movement, long dull aches or a bolt of pain when you reach for things, you most likely need remedial massage. Remedial massage is less relaxing than Swedish massage, but it is the best way to get relief from your pain. Your therapist will assess your body and then work on a group or groups of muscles connected to the problem area.
2. Think of massage like exercise
We have all suffered through day-after-exercise soreness. To avoid this, we know that we need to improve our fitness through regular training and stretching. Massages are just the same. When you treat issues such as chronic pain with massage, you need to adopt the same mindset you would if you were starting a new exercise program.
Just as a one-off run and stretch won’t cut it, nor will a single massage. That’s because sporadic massages will only give you short-term relief, but a long-term treatment plan will help you to truly tackle the problem.
Your remedial massage therapist will perform a series of movements to stretch muscles, break down adhesions, move toxins and blood through the muscles, and teach the muscles to let go. Just like with exercise, it does not take long for your muscles to learn. That means if you put the hard yards in during those first few weeks, you should find that you need treatments less frequently. Of course for some people, regular massage may need to be in their life. But in general, if you put in the time, your muscles will remember and thank you for it.
3. Do your exercises
If you have ever been to a remedial massage therapist, you will likely have been sent home with basic exercises to stretch out and strengthen your muscles, improve your movement and keep you feeling better for longer. Of course if you shelve that homework, it is about as successful as putting a textbook under your pillow and hoping you learn whilst sleeping. It really does not work.
If you do your exercises, however, you will stretch out the muscles that cause your pain. This increase in the regularity of movement to those areas in your body will achieve so much more than massage can do alone. These exercises also help you to increase your muscle memory and body awareness, and your body will improve so much faster.
4. Be mindful of your posture – always!
I am a shocker for slouching and letting my core go when I sit in front of the computer or TV, or drive the car. If you are the same, start becoming more mindful of your posture and get into the habit of ‘check and correct’ when you sit: make sure your weight is evenly balanced on both sit bones, draw yourself up tall and activate your tummy muscles.
If you continue to have trouble maintaining your posture while sitting, try lying flat on your back when possible with your neck straight and knees bent to protect the lower back. This one is best suited to activities like reading a book or watching TV.
When you are bending to put things down or pick them up (this is especially important for mums), use your knees and keep your back straight.
Other ways to keep good posture include using tooth-brushing time to activate your core for two minutes and sticking reminders to your bathroom mirror, computer and car dash. Before you know it, conscious thought becomes habit.
5. Combine massage with core strength training
Tension can be caused in many different ways – from work to poor posture, pregnancy, sport or just the way your body is built. If your core is not strong, this tension can be exacerbated and you run the risk of creating back pain for yourself.
Very basically, the muscles around your middle need to be strong and activated so they can protect your body and hold your posture in place. Finding a good pilates or yoga class near you is one of the top tips I recommend to most of my clients. Strengthen your core and feel many of the achy side effects melt away!
6. Combine massage with regular stretching
As well as strengthening your core, pilates or yoga will also allow you to regularly stretch out whole muscle groups in your body. Through regular stretching, you will help your muscles to stay in the correct alignment. You will be amazed at how quickly your flexibility, balance and strength builds, and your body will thank you.
7. Drink lots of water
When your body is massaged, everything is stimulated. Blood and lymph move through your body faster, and with that comes an increase in oxygen moving around. Toxins can also build up and become stagnant in tension areas (the knots), which are moved out of the body during massage.
This is why sometimes after a treatment you may feel a little lightheaded, nauseous or have a slight headache. All that tension and all those stagnant toxins are moving out of your body and this is a good thing. Drinking lots of water after a massage can help your body flush everything out faster.
8. Improve your sleeping habits
While you are sleeping, your spine should be straight. If your pillow causes your neck to bend, you will spend eight hours each night (assuming you get a full night's sleep) creating pain and problems for yourself. A pillow that keeps your spine straight at the neck really does help, especially if you are one for regular neck pain or headaches.
If you sleep on your back, placing a pillow under your knees is great for correcting your pelvis and taking the strain off your lower back. If you are a side sleeper, try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. This will align your hips and keep your spine straight in your lower back. Of course don't get so caught up and stressed out about your posture that you overthink too much to sleep. Keep it all simple.
Massage is an amazing asset for your wellbeing. If you can take on these tips I always share with my clients, you should find that your treatments last longer, your body feels better and you feel more in control of your body.