Massages are often considered a luxury—which is an understandable conclusion considering the easy gift-ability, non-essential expense, and immense feeling of pampering associated. But there’s a reason you feel that good during and after a massage, and it’s not just the calming surroundings, smells, and time off.
An important word should come after “massage,” that’s often dropped: it’s “therapy.” Most massage therapists are licensed or certified professionals who study the body systems, including vascular, lymphatic, nervous, muscular, and energetic. Then they log numerous hands-on hours to work on their technique in order to best help fight common ailments and discomfort. So sure, massages are relaxing and soothing, but at their core, they’re therapeutic.
We talked with Licensed Massage Therapist Lylah Dady to understand more about the process, benefits, and how you can optimize your experience.
Determining Whether You Need a Massage
First of all: Do you hold pain, stress or stiffness in your body? Then you’d benefit from massage! Prepare yourself for a little science, so we can explain.
Simply speaking, massage improves circulation. Which increases the amount of available oxygen to a cell, as well as fluid exchange and waste removal at the cellular level. Basically, Dady tells us, “Stress hormones decrease and feel-good hormones increase. It can help the body self-heal and function more efficiently.” As your muscle and connective tissues soften, your central nervous system calms and your parasympathetic (otherwise known as the rest and digest system) activates. “You transition from a ‘fight or flight’ response to a ‘rest and restore’ response.”
This benefits the body and mind in many ways, helping it restore itself from possible issues like low energy, anxiety, headaches, poor sleep, and of course physical pain like a bad back or arthritis, plus preparation and recovery from strenuous workouts. Add in the emotional release, and it’s a win all around!
Here’s some practical guidance so you can fully benefit from your next massage:
How to Make the Most of Your Massage
- Don’t rush! Allow plenty of time before and after your appointment so you can arrive calm, provide helpful information up front, and benefit from every minute on the table—then extend the Zen and fluidity afterward.
- Hydrate before and after. Yes, it’s the answer to many things—and particularly true when getting a massage: “Water is life and when you’re hydrated, everything runs more smoothly.”
- Avoid strenuous activity—at least for a few hours after the massage.
- Come back! It’s tempting to consider this a sales pitch, but the benefits of massage are magnified by routine sessions. Your body will begin to anticipate the therapy and respond better and faster.
What Your Massage Therapist Wants You to Know
- Take the lead with your breath. Your hands aren’t at work, but you’re an active participant. Focus on your deep breathing, like ocean waves clearing your mind and relaxing your body.
- Communication is welcome. It’s natural to get quiet and succumb to your surrounding, but you’re invited to comment throughout the massage regarding a pressure point to continue working on, if you’re uncomfortable, or maybe need a Kleenex!
- You may need to shop around. Like a hair stylist, trainer or general practitioner, massage therapists are not necessarily one size fits all. You may connect with someone and your surroundings better than others. Don’t let one bad experience discourage you from the experience over all!
National Massage Therapy Week is August 19-23, 2015. If you’d like to test the massage waters with a new therapy or therapist, keep your eye out for special offers in your area.