Does getting a massage regularly make a difference?

by Curt Donohue on July 17, 2010

In practicing massage, I tell my clients that setting a schedule to come in for massage on a regular basis is more beneficial than coming in only occasionally.  In fact,  greater awareness and improved health are just some of the benefits of coming in more often.  I’ve always felt that this is true, but never could satisfactorily put into words why.  It took all of these years of working weekly with one of my clients (I’ll call him Mike) to truly see it for myself.

For Mikes part, he truly believed that coming in once a week did his body a tremendous amount of  good – even more than I believed it.  The difference was, he felt the benefit each time he left the office.  I too saw Mike’s immediate improvements, but as each week stretched into months and years, I had to look harder.  The differences from one week to the next became more subtle.  It was like trying to notice the changes of someone you see everyday. One day you see them and suddenly realize “Wow! They’ve lost some weight!”

After a while we developed a routine.  Each time Mike came in, I would ask him “So, what are we working on today?”  In the beginning, he would tell me about specific pain issues – low back tightening one week, headache or back pain the next.  After awhile, though, he started telling me that he had no issues at all, and I would think, “Wow, and yet here you are with me! Amazing!”  I would give him a 90-minute deep tissue massage, finding small issues here and there, releasing areas of tension that I found, and relaxing chronically held places.  We would go on like this for months, with him coming in each week, no complaints.

And then came last weeks session

This last session gave me the “Aha!” that I had been looking for.  You see, Mike went away for six weeks.  He was camping, then I was camping, then he was sick and before you know it, six weeks had past.  One day my receptionist saw the phone ringing and said, “hey Cindy, it looks like Mike is calling to cancel again.” Instead he asked to speak with me.  He said that yes he did have to cancel this evening’s appointment, but did not want to wait for another week.  We scheduled 3 days later.

When he came in, I asked him my routine question – “ What can I work on for you today?”  thinking, “o.k., its been six weeks, maybe this time he’ll have some issues to work on.”  Once again Mike said, “I’m actually feeling pretty good!  I’ve been doing some stretching and it seems to really be helping my back”.

“Here we go again” I thought.

I started working on his calves, hamstrings and hips.  The hamstrings were a little tight and the attachments around the sacrum seemed somewhat tense, but not more than usual.  I then started working on his low back, focusing on the attachments along the top of the hip “Wow! Mike suddenly announced “That’s really tight!”

It was very tight with small myofascial adhesions along the left side.  Then I started working along the lower spine.  I went to the right side and strategically placed an elbow between two lumbar vertebra.  Immediately, he jumped – something I hadn’t seen him do in a long time.  Just as quickly, the pain went away and he relaxed.  “Looks like we found a sharp one,”  I said.  I kept working through the rest of his back and then looked up at the clock.  Already 45 minutes had past – “Wow, that took a long time to work through” I thought to myself.

I turned him on his back and started working on his legs and feet.  As I was working, he started touching the right cheek on his face.   “Is something wrong?” I asked.   He said, “Yeah, my jaw is twitching…I think it’s been doing it since you started working on my low back.”  I won’t go into my theory of why that was happening.  Needless to say, after 30 minutes of work on his jaw and neck, the twitching had stopped and he was feeling much better.

It amazed me to see that so much had changed after only six weeks.  Although Mike wasn’t feeling any pain, he had become in tune enough with his body to know that he needed to come in and see me – he simply felt it.  However, it wasn’t until he got on the table that those instincts were confirmed.

Isn’t that how it is?  You can feel yourself gaining weight or getting out of shape, yet you don’t truly wake up to that fact until you realize that your pants are really tight.  You don’t see how out of shape you are until you feel the weakness and soreness of your first day back at the gym.  You don’t truly realize how much you needed that massage, until your body starts talking to you on the table.

Should massage be part of your health routine?

Massage is like any other health routine.  Like eating right and exercising – if you don’t do it regularly, your body pays for it over time.  Those chronically held areas start pulling your posture out of balance eventually causing chronic pain issues.

Yet, even the lightest massage can increase circulation to tightly held muscles and help to counteract long term postural problems.  If you get massages regularly, the benefits of massage may start to feel subtle to you after a while.  Just like when you work out or eat right, your body becomes more in tune with the new regimen.  In fact, you may even end up like Mike where the only thing you may notice is that you’re feeling pretty good each time you come in.

I challenge you to try an experiment.  Schedule a massage twice a month for six months and see what the routine does for you.    My bet is that you’ll be feeling healthier and more in touch with what’s happening in your body.   Feel free to write me and let me know your experience with receiving regular massages.  I’d love to hear your story!

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