For those who are new to massage or don’t what to look for in a massage, it is important to keep a few questions in mind. What do you want to get out of it? How comfortable do you feel? Are there any specific areas you want worked on? What will make it worth your time and money?
For the most part, everyone has the same expectations from a massage: It should be relaxing, it should feel comfortable, it should meet your needs, and you should leave feeling better than when you came in. Here is why-
It Should be Relaxing
One of the greatest perks of massage is its ability to relax the body and relieve stress. When the body relaxes it loosens up tight muscles where we hold the most stress. For some people, this is the neck and shoulder area, and for some, it’s the lower back (it depends on the individual). These tight muscles may aggravate the stress response, leading to pain (or more pain) and muscular imbalance.
How do tight muscles do this?
The stress response (fight-or-flight) shunts blood to the limbs so as to prepare the body for movement. When this does not happen, all we get is tight muscles that can turn into knots and adhesions that cause pain and limit movement.
Research shows that stress has a magnifying effect on pain, especially when this is chronic pain. Sometimes the simple act of relaxing is enough to make chronic pain go away or make it manageable (1).
When muscles contract, they shorten. The contraction of a muscle is in response to stress in, therefore, constantly shortening those muscles. This can create an uneven pull on local joints and over time affect gait and limit range of motion- this is known as a muscular imbalance.
It Should be Comfortable
A big part of a massage is comfort, which contributes to relaxation. This means that the massage environment and practitioner are flexible enough to accommodate comfort and safety. Examples of these include- a private place to switch in and out of clothes, choice over how much you want to keep on, and a peaceful environment.
For the most part, massage rooms are quiet, have no smells (and a pleasant scent option), have the option of warming blankets, and have little to no distractions (no advertisements). This allows the individual to submerge in the massage experience and get the most out of it. It is also a good idea to turn off your cell-phone which can induce stress and take away from the experience.
It Should Meet Your Needs
There are many types of massage, and it is important to find the one that best addresses your needs. Some people enjoy pressure, for example, while others find it painful. Pick massages types based on what you find most important. If it’s relaxation, a Swedish massage might be best. If it is tight muscles and adhesions, a deep tissue or sports massage might be the way to go.
It is important to do your research on what to expect from specific types of massage so that there are no surprises. It is also better to ask your practitioner directly since they are the ones doing the massage and can tell you about the techniques they will use.
You Should Leave Feeling Better Than Before
They point of a massage is to relax and feel better. This means that you should leave feeling better than when you came in, or be warned about potential soreness before your leave. Massages are known to release endorphins (the body’s natural pain-killers), endocannabinoids, dopamine, and oxytocin- all of which contribute to a state of relaxation and comfort. This means that, if done right, you should be feeling good afterward. Some people report feeling light, and even sleepy after a massage due to its relaxing effects.
Some massages, however, can lead to more delayed or instant muscle soreness- especially when there are knots. Muscle soreness is more common in deep tissue and sports massages, which target deep levels of musculature to break restricting adhesions. In such a case, the massage practitioner should warn you about soreness and give advice on how to manage -like light exercises, stretches, or cold packs.
Whether you would like to recover from exercise, stress, or injury, CORE Massage Therapy or CORE Fusion Therapeutic bodywork will revitalize you mentally and heal you physically. Visit us at Santa Cruz CORE to experience the blissful relaxation and health benefits of a CORE Massage, or the valuable healing power of CORE Fusion Therapeutic Bodywork today.
Gleason, Jill. “The Evidence for Physical Therapy to Address Chronic Pain.” Uctv.tv, University of California Television, 2 Feb. 2012, www.uctv.tv/shows/The-Evidence-for-Physical-Therapy-to-Address-Chronic-Pain-23152.