You know it’s important to take care of your body by eating well and working out, but recovery is also a big part of self-care. Things like stretching, acupuncture, and massage can also play a role in your overall well-being. Here, for those who don’t already have a lot of experience with this beneficial pleasure, a little massage FAQ.
What Is a Massage?
A massage is more than going to a spa, picking a service, and getting a rubdown. Getting a massage can really benefit a body, and there are many different kinds.
“Massage is a hands-on therapeutic technique, whereby the clinician uses [her] hands to manipulate the soft tissues, that is, the muscles and surrounding fascia and connective tissue to relieve pain, improve mobility, and release trigger points,” explains Paul Mostoff, chief of physical therapy at All Sports Physical Therapy in New York City. “Most spas perform Swedish massage, which is known for its softer, gentler, long strokes, and patterns that promote relaxation and improve circulation. More aggressive massages, such as deep tissue, involve kneading and applying compression through the deeper layers of soft tissue, which helps break up scar tissue, release trigger points, and produce an analgesic effect in that area.”
Why Are Massages Important?
Though they can be expensive, massages can be worth the money to many people, especially those who work out a lot. Exercise creates tiny tears in muscle tissue. When those tears heal, you get stronger.
Massage can help speed up healing, explains Mostoff. “It stimulates your metabolism, increases blood flow to the surrounding tissues, decreases swelling, reduces soreness, breaks up scar tissue, and promotes relaxation,” he says. “People who get massages regularly will tell you that it helps them cope with stress, reduce anxiety, relax, and therefore release tension in chronically tightened muscles.”
What Are the Benefits of a Massage?
As mentioned above, when it comes to fitness and exercise, massage helps speed recovery. “If you heal faster, you’ll be ready to for that next round of spinning, resistance training, or exercise class,” says Mostoff. But you don’t have to be a gym person to benefit.
Most people have such bad muscle tension for so long, that they may not even realize their muscles are constantly tensed all day, and that becomes their norm. Over time, this can put them at a higher risk for injury. “By helping to release tension and stiffness in the muscles, massage can improve your posture and breathing during everyday tasks such as sitting in front of a computer, typing, playing an instrument, and other more aggressive activities such as lifting up a small child,” says Mostoff.
When Should Massage Be Avoided?
There are a lot of benefits to getting a massage, but there are also times when it can do more harm than good. If you have an injury like a broken bone or even a sprain, it’s best to avoid massage and instead see a doctor or other medical professional. Also, if you’re experiencing more muscle fatigue, aches, or pains than usual, Mostoff says, “It’s a good idea to see a physician just in case there’s something more serious going on.”