Massages have long been regarded for their healing properties. As early as 2330BC, the Ancient Egyptians had hieroglyphics showing two men having their hands and feet tended to. By 700 BC, the Greeks and Chinese were both using massages regularly, and these days the practice has spread to all the corners of the world.
There are many types of massage to choose from, depending on whether you’re just looking to treat yourself or treat a medical condition. How often should you get a massage? The answer varies – for example, a pregnant woman needs a different sort of treatment than an injured athlete.
Health Benefits of Massage
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine himself, supposedly once wrote that “the physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing.” The Greeks were big fans of using massage for aiding in recovery after athletic and military endeavors. Unlike some ancient medical practices, this one has stood the test of time.
One of the first benefits you’ll notice when receiving a massage is the deep feeling of calm that ensues. Massages have been shown to reduce the levels of stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, they also cause a flood of endorphins. These neurochemicals trigger feelings of wellbeing, which makes sense considering they’re also released when you enjoy some chocolate. Plus, they’ve been shown to have pain-reducing effects, so they really help set you up for your massage.
There’s plenty of ways a massage can directly help your body to be at its best, including:
- Relaxing your muscles
- Improving your circulation
- A wider range of mobility and flexibility in your joints
- Aiding in recovery from physical injuries
- Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
The Different Types of Massage
With such an extensive history, it’s hardly surprising that there are many different styles and approaches. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.
Swedish massage, or classic massage, is the most commonly practiced form of massage in the Western world, and this probably the first thing that springs to mind when you think about massages. It’s a full-body massage that can go from gentle to firm, and it is good for releasing tension and unknotting muscles. It’s a good place to start if you’ve never been to a massage before.
Sports Therapy Massage
One of the technique’s oldest uses, a sports massage can help to heal injuries, and even to prevent them from happening again. This is great for athletes prone to repetitive muscle injuries, and it can also help improve flexibility and promote circulation, as well as relieving pain. The intensity of the massage can vary depending on your needs.
Deep Tissue Massage
This form of massage uses much more direct pressure that the others, as it aims to reach tension and scar tissue hidden deep in your muscles. It can help relieve chronic muscle pain, and it can be used to help promote healing in deep muscular injuries.
Thai massage is a popular form of deep tissue massage that combines Indian and Chinese traditional medicines with thousands of years of Thai traditions. It combines a spiritual approach with the physical, as it aims to remove blockages in the energy lines throughout the body. It does so by means of pushing and pulling you in a variety of positions that would make a contortionist jealous.
How Often Should You Get a Massage If You Are…
Twice a week to once a month, depending on your workload
If you’re constantly in the gym or on the field, massages can have a range of benefits. No surprise, then, that many major sports teams have massage therapists on staff. How often you should get a massage depends on how intense your training is, and whether you’ve got a match coming up.
During lighter training, having a sports massage or deep tissue massage can be all you need to promote muscle health. During more intense periods, you might want to look at having a session once or twice a week. This can be especially helpful if you ask your therapist to focus on the area you’ve been working the most.
One caveat: avoid deep tissue massages up to five days before any big games, as they can cause soreness, and your body needs time to fully recover.
In Injury Recovery?
Once a week to every other week
This will depend a great deal on your injury, so you should check with your therapist first. A general guideline would be to look at going once a week when you’re first in recovery, cutting back to fewer sessions as you heal up.
Once or twice a week
If you’re pregnant, regular massages can help relieve the steadily increasing stress on your back, hips, and knees. Plus it helps with emotional stress, which is a definite bonus. However, many massage therapists will refuse to give you a session if you’re in your first trimester, as there is some concern that the increased blood flow could be harmful.
Suffering from Insomnia?
Massage has been shown by recent research to have a significant effect on the parasympathetic nervous system. This system manages the body’s “rest and digest” processes, which means a good rub-down can put your body in a condition that will help you to nod off.
Under Heavy Stress?
Stress kills – people who’ve experienced persistent stress over their lives are fifty percent more likely to die. So, anything that can help you to relax is probably worth an hour or so a week.
Thanks to those happy little endorphins, a weekly massage can do wonders to relieve the mental and emotional symptoms of stress, even as your therapist’s hands work on the physical ones. It can also help with depression, chronic pain, arthritis, and other sources of constant discomfort. Not bad for an ancient medical practice…
An Average Person?
Once a week to once a month
How often should you get a massage? How often can you afford it? How much time do you have to spare? How bad does your back hurt after sitting at your desk all day? Answering questions like these will help you find the answer that works for you. In terms of health benefits, once or twice a month should be enough to make sure that your body is getting the TLC it deserves.
Depending on what you’re using it for, the art of massage can be helpful in a number of ways. Assess your situation before you decide how often to use this millennia-old treatment. One way or another though, you’ll end up feeling less stressed, less tense, and ready to face the world or have a nice long nap.