I often get asked, "How often should I have a massage?"
Anyone who is regularly active, such as people who play for a club for football, rugby etc., runners, swimmers, cyclists etc. and even those people who use their bodies strenuously in day to day activities (think builders, mother's with small children, gardeners etc.) could benefit from regular maintenance massage therapy.
If you're a sport's person, incorporating massage into your fitness routine will pay dividends. It will help you get into shape faster, improve performance, help you recover faster from more intense workouts with less stiffness and soreness. It can also help prevent injuries by relieving conditions that commonly lead to injury before they get worse.
All too often I end up doing repair work, where people come to me because they've left their tight muscle issue far too long and it's become a problem. At this point, it will take longer to treat and cost you a lot more in the end for it, and I'm not just talking about money! Massage has a cummulative effect. You will notice greater benefits when you are taking care of your body regularly and not just when you push it too hard.
When you do any strenuous work (or sit for long periods in positions we're not designed for), your muscles end up working harder than they should be and often, pain patterns begin to refer to other parts of the body and your body begins to compensate for the issue, causing more health problems along with it.
The "tearing down phase" is when you overwork and your muscles become stiff, sore, and you lose your flexibility. It happens often happens when doing repetitive work or from increasing the amount of movement from what the body is used to. So what causes stiffness and soreness?
Well, delayed muscle soreness is often felt 24-48 hours after any exercise and any number of factors may contribute, such a minor muscle damage, muscle spasms that reduce blood flow, or just a general build up of waste products from energy production.
Trigger points commonly referred to as muscle knots, may also be the cause of muscle soreness. The cause of these are still highly debated but it's generally thought that they occur from the stress and strain of repeated movements.
Hypertonic muscles, these are heavily-exercised muscles, may also lose their capacity to "relax" and cause chronically tight (hypertonic) muscles. They are generally sore because of a reduced blood flow. Watch these because these are the muscles most prone to tears and pulls.
Where massage comes in is in the recovery phase. Maintenance massage both helps to treat injury and chronic problems, as well as helping the body recover from exercise, improve blood circulation, muscle relaxation and contribute to overall general relaxation. If you overwork your body, it is important to allow it to recover to avoid injury, irritability, insomnia or an increased resting heart rate. Massage facilitates the supporting of your body in its efforts to heal.
As most people have their own specific "trouble spots, massage can be tailored to these areas and regular maintenance on them after treatment can help keep the original symptoms at bay.
So, knowing this how often should you therefore get a massage? Well, this will vary based on your fitness, level of activity and whether you have any acute injures.
For moderately active adults in good health, needing no additional attention, 1-2 massage(s) a month are recommended. If you are seeking treatment for an injury, you should aim to have between 3 and 5 sessions initially, over a 1-2 week period and then slowly space out your visits until you only need a monthly maintenance massage. For atheletes who are club members, ideally you should be looking at having a massage 2-3 times a week if you are serious about competing in your sport.
If you don't have regular massages, I'll leave this with you.....You wouldn't blink twice at having your car regularly serviced, so why on earth aren't you giving yourself the same care?