Nobody will deny that getting a massage is right up there next to snow days, unicorns, and cotton candy on the scale of the most excellent things on earth, but did you know that massage is also really good for your overall physical and mental health?
The American Massage Therapy Association cites a number peer-reviewed studies that have found regular massages help combat headaches, insomnia, and fatigue as well as ease stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s also been found to help reduce the need for anti-inflammatories in the treatment for low back pain, and in fact, massage is an effective pain management tool altogether, particularly for pain related to fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and post-exercise inflammation.
If you get regular massages, you probably already knew all that. But the thing is, you may not be getting the full benefits of your massage if you’re not fully engaged in the process, which begins with your mindset before you arrive at your appointment and ends with how you treat yourself afterwards.
Here are our top five tips for getting the most out of your massage.
- Schedule wisely.
The timing of your massage appointment is crucial for getting the most out of it. If your busy work day ends at 4:30 and you schedule your appointment for 4:45, your body may arrive on time, but your brain will probably still be back at the office, wrapping things up and making mental notes of all that didn’t get done, and by the time it catches up to your body, your therapist may be wrapping up the session.
Schedule your massage so that you’ll be able to arrive with a little time to spare and with your mind at ease. If you can take a long, hot shower or do a few Sun Salutations before you arrive, all the better. You’ll be in a relaxed state of mind and body, ready to focus your full attention on the matters at hand.
- Communicate with your massage therapist.
Environment and comfort are important aspects of the massage experience. Bella’s massage therapists are a wholly easygoing bunch, and they want you to let them know if there’s anything they can do to make your experience better. If ambient music makes you want to poke out your eyeballs or total silence makes your mind do funny things, let ‘em know. If you’re too warm or too cold, or if something feels particularly helpful and you want more of it, don’t be shy about cluing them in—likewise if something hurts or doesn’t feel quite right.
- Hydrate before and after.
Arriving at your appointment well hydrated can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your massage, during which metabolic waste is pushed out of your muscle tissues and into your bloodstream. If you’re dehydrated, your blood flow will be sluggish, your body won’t process toxins as efficiently as it ideally should, and you may feel more achy following the massage.
Post-massage hydration is equally essential for getting the full range of benefits of your massage. Drinking water afterwards helps flush out the toxins that accumulate in the blood during the massage and promotes healthy muscle tissue.
But don’t limit good hydration to massage days. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day every day is essential for good overall health, and we would be remiss if we didn’t express the importance of constant hydration for beautiful, glowing skin.
You may find yourself holding your breath while your massage therapist is working on a particularly stubborn knot, but doing so makes it more difficult for your muscles to release tension, and it can make the massage feel more painful. But breathing during your massage isn’t just about facilitating the release of tension from your muscles. It’s also about being present in the moment, maintaining awareness of the area of your body that’s being worked on, and promoting healing on a deeper level.
While your massage therapist is preparing, focus on a rhythmic breathing pattern. As you inhale, imagine your tension and all of your negative thoughts being pulled into the breath, and as you exhale, imagine them leaving your body and dissipating into the ether. Do this five times or so, then settle into a comfortable breathing pattern. Re-adjust or refocus your breath as needed throughout the appointment.
- Savor the effects.
Once the massage is over (boo!), don’t hightail it off the table as soon as your therapist has left the room. Instead, take a few more slow, deep breaths, and focus on how your body feels. Open your eyes, and let them take in the atmosphere of the room as they become accustomed to the light. Slowly roll over onto your side, and push yourself into a seated position. Sit still for a few breaths, then slowly retrieve your things and savor how you feel – mind, body, and spirit – as you get dressed.
For the next few hours, try to stay in that relaxed, present-focused mindset. Enjoy a yoga class, have a leisurely soak in the tub with your favorite aromatherapy oils, or relax on the patio with a glass of fruit-infused water. Eat a light, healthy meal, then sink luxuriously into your mattress for some seriously restorative sleep.
Need a Massage?
Bella’s licensed, nationally certified massage therapists offer both standard and hot stone massage as well as specialty massages specifically designed to release stress, relieve pain, or restore your overall sense of calm and wellbeing.
Take a look at our full massage therapy menu, and call us today to book an appointment.