Massage Therapy – More than just a massage
So full disclaimer in case this isn’t yet noticed by my awesome readers. I don’t take the time to plan out my posts and think about how to frame what I’m talking about. I don’t write them like a novel or an English paper. I write as though I’m sitting next to you and we’re hanging out and talking. And I’m kinda random. And wordy. SO.
Let’s talk about massages. While a chiropractic adjustment may very well be the “quick and easy fix” for MOST of my ailments, sometimes I need more than just a quick snap crackle pop. I love adjustments – I love my chiro. I highly recommend chiropractic for many reasons (although much like a primary care physician – there are good ones, and there are not so good ones, so do your research), but this isn’t a chiro post. It’s a massage post! And let’s be clear – there are good massage therapists, and bad massage therapists. There are also productive massages versus relaxing massages. And yes, it’s better if you can shimmy down into nothing but your underoos. It’s awkward if you aren’t used to it, especially if you are a private person, but that’s why picking the RIGHT place and person is critical. Just like the primary care, just like the chiro. Now let’s talk massage types.
Relaxing. You just want someone to take 30 minutes or an hour and work on your back, legs. Whatever. Basically you want to take a nap and have someone gently rub on your muscles, but your’e not really sore or anything. It just feels good. While I definitely support those, that is NOT the type of massage I’m talking about. That’s “vacation” massage to me.
Productive massages treat more than just soreness. That’s why it’s CRITICAL for you to find someone you like and work with them regularly. You don’t have to shell out $100 every week for a massage, but if you’re like me and you DO have back/neck/shoulder/head/sinus/hamstring/glute/lowerback/calf pain, trust me. Even if it’s once a month, go back to the same person. I get frozen shoulder/stiff neck, etc. I carry my tension and my stress all through my body, and I know it. Something I’ve come to accept about myself. I try to do yoga and mediate (yet another future post), but realistically, I just don’t physically handle stress well.
Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a few *semi-major* things. I’m caring for a close friend post-surgery (each day is better but two weeks ago was a different story), I’m working through a neighborhood issue that impacts my residence (and my property value), and my refrigerator went out and I’ll be without a fridge for at least a week because Home Depot sucks. And…I cook. 🙂 So lots of things are going on. And as much as I want to handle it, I woke up this morning with a migraine. I took my faithful kratom and hopped in the shower (hot showers and cold tile help sometimes), and USUALLY I’d hop back into bed with sopping wet hair and grab an ice pack or two – one over the eyes and one at the back base of my head. However…..I don’t have a fridge. So. Yeah. No ice pack. I called over to my massage place (studio? office? meh) and asked when my MT (massage therapist) was available for an hour massage. They gave me a time and I jumped at the earliest one. Anyone ever drive with a migraine and have it get significantly worse??? Yeah, my MT is about 20 minutes away, and I pulled over at least twice thinking I was going to empty out my stomach. I was dizzy and having hot/cold flashes (I don’t generally recommend driving with a migraine, guys), and by the time I saw my MT, I told her I might puke, so a handy trash can near by would be appreciated.
Guys – she worked on my shoulder, my upper back, my neck and my head (on both sides – not just the migraine side) for an hour. She applied pressure to my sinuses around my nose, around my eye, across my temples. This girl is GOOD (if you’re local to my area and want a referral, happy to send ya). I have a lot of muscular tension in my back. And here’s one of the perks of having the MT know me. Not only was she like “ooh, migraine, got it” as soon as she saw me come in. She was able to tell me that my back was tighter than it had been in the last couple of months. I walked into the appointment with a migraine approaching a dangerously strong 7. I walked out an hour later with a meager 2. It’s not gone – but it’s a TON better.
So some things you should know. Massage therapy works on sinuses, headaches, migraines – there’s prenatal massage too. It can help loosen tight areas that can actually help a chiropractic adjustment be more productive. But here’s some things to consider when you pick someone to see.
- What are their hours? How often does <so-and-so> work? (I know my MT doesn’t work Thursdays or Fridays. I also know TWO other people that I trust to work on me if I can’t get my normal MT).
- Do you feel comfortable with your MT? If in any way your MT gives you a weird vibe and you’re not sure if their hands are allowed to go where they’re going, it’s PROBABLY not ok. I’ve had my butt worked on, and I can tell you. There’s difference between a booty grab and a good ol’ elbow dig to loosen up your butt muscles.
- Can you talk to your MT? Some people love sleeping or snoozing through a massage. I’m actually a little more chatty. It helps me get to know the person I’m working with personally (mine has an American Bulldog and lives in an RV – what do you know about your providers?). You HAVE to be able to say “can you apply a little more pressure?” and “can you ease up a little? that spot’s a little tender”. Also sharing “oh, that spot actually feels a little more sore than where you were just working. can you spend a little more time there?”. You aren’t going to go to a doctor and get a random shot you don’t need — don’t go to an MT that isn’t going to accept your input.
- There ARE exceptions to this. During one particular massage, I let my MT (one of the other two who is also amazing – but not my regular person) know she could increase pressure on my upper back. She said, “if you really want me to, I can, but I’m afraid based on the inflammation I’m feeling you will feel even worse tomorrow”. She’s someone I trust. She’s the expert. I have no education in massage. So I trusted her. And I’m pretty sure she was right.
You might still be sore the next day or two. Especially if you hop off the massage table and three hours later do something physically intensive like cut down a tree. Or whatever. You also need to HYDRATE. Any decent massage in addition to helping loosen those muscles is also going to drain your lymphatic system. This helps your body flush excess fluid and essentially get rid of some waste. And can help clear up your skin too! But because of this, it is REALLY important to hydrate all day after a massage. With water. Not gatorade, not vitamin water — real water. I also support some coconut water if it’s a good source (again, different post – but this post is giving me some great ideas for other posts later).
So how often SHOULD you get a massage? And for how long? Most solid MTs will advise that more frequent massages (twice a week, for example) for shorter timeframes (30 minutes) are going to be better than less frequent (once a week) for longer (an hour). What do I do? I’m sore all the time you guys. So if I could I would honestly go twice a week. How often does any one person realistically need to go? Up to you. Once a week, every other week, once a month — aside from migraines, I’m usually every 3-4 weeks, to be honest. Some people go once a quarter and feel great, but if you are just starting therapy, I’d recommend no longer than a two week gap for the first six weeks (that’s three massages, you guys. not askin’ a lot here).
SO my bottom line? Woke up with a migraine. Got pretty bad. Traditional medicine on a weekend says go to Urgent Care or the ER. Well. With amazing corporate benefits. My ER visit will probably be around $250. My urgent care is somewhere around $150, I think. My one hour massage that took my migraine pain from a 7 to a 2? $65. If you are being asked to pay $100+ for a one hour massage with no special frills like stones or cupping — you need to look for a cheaper place. And for the love. TIP. These guys are working on people all day, and yes, their arms and hands (and really their whole bodies) get tired too. Please tip. I tend to tip 15-25% because I feel like tipping shows my appreciation, and I know my MT gets 100% of my tip. And it’s still cheaper (and more effective and SAFER) than traditional western medicine.
Thanks you guys, and Stay Shiny!