Massage therapy has been around for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations used massage therapy and a variety of other wellness techniques to heal the body and the mind. Massage therapy has survived throughout the years, whereas leechings did not, because of its effectiveness and science proven results. In today’s modern world, there are a multitude of bodywork modalities and it can be overwhelming to figure out which is the right modality for you.
The first thing you have to identify when deciding what type of massage to receive is to figure out why you want a massage in the first place. Your reason for getting a massage will help determine the type of massage best suited to your needs. In order to figure that out consider the following questions:
Are you in any pain or discomfort?
Have you experienced an increase in stress recently?
Are you looking for a way to wind down/relax?
Are you looking to improve your mobility/flexibility?
Are you an athlete training for a specific event?
Do you have any short or long term goals?
These considerations let you hone in on what it is your body really needs. Often times you may have multiple reasons for seeking outside assistance with your body, in which case, you’ll want to find a therapist that addresses all of your concerns. The biggest differentiation you can make in regards to massage is if the ultimate goal is relaxation or if there are other health and wellness concerns the therapist will be addressing.
Massage that is specifically designed for “relaxation” takes place in an atmosphere designed to be tranquil and calm (think spa) and the techniques the therapist uses are specifically geared towards turning down your sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight or flight) and accessing your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest functions). Usually additions like hot towels and essential oils can be used in these therapies. Relaxation massage can be great if your sole purpose is to have 60-90 minutes of alone time to really unwind. The thing to be aware of is that most (not all) therapists that work in this manner can be really good at what they do but don’t have a deeper understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the body. Meaning, they can work symptomatically areas of discomfort but don’t know enough to address the original cause for any discomfort. Which, results in a session that may feel amazing but only temporarily.
If your reasons for receiving massage go beyond wanting to relax, than you want to find a therapist that has an excellent grasp on the anatomy and physiology of the body. These therapists will understand the specific actions of each muscle, how the body interacts, and the compensation patterns the body creates as a way of self correcting. The biggest identifier of a clinical therapist is someone who understands and addresses the reason behind the symptoms and not just the areas of discomfort or pain. A therapist who does this will be able to not only help you recover if you are suffering from an injury but, is someone who will be able to work with you to help you reach any health and wellness goal.
Not all clinical therapists are the same. Some therapists use a very specific protocol with specific techniques. Rolfing, Myofascial Release, Trager work, these modalities apply very specific techniques to address your concerns. Some people consider these therapists to be experts in their field. They specialize in a specific treatment modality. In my professional opinion, specializing in a certain modality is good it shows an understanding that surpasses the average therapist… in that modality. However, it also limits how you interact with the body and therefore what you can accomplish. At Muscle + Bone our therapists have an excellent understanding of how the human body moves, how important the nervous system is in creating and addressing certain physical ailments, and knowledge of a variety of techniques to address any issue. More importantly our therapists work with you, not on you. Your body adapts to life and so it’s important that you find a therapist that can adapt as well.
The other thing to consider of course is your finances. Massage therapy can be expensive (it shouldn’t be, but that’s a discussion of our health care system best saved for another day). It can be tempting to seek out the cheaper massages, but there is usually a reason those services are offered at such a low cost. Cheaper is not always better, similarly just because something is expensive does not automatically make it better. Find a therapist that cares about you and is proud and passionate about what they do. Deciding to make massage therapy a part of your life is a commitment that looks differently for everyone. Maybe you are fortunate enough to be able to afford massage therapy once a week, maybe once a month. Maybe it’s a stretch to even be able to go once. Whatever your budget, there is a way to make massage therapy a part of your life, it might just require a little creativity. Find the right therapist, they will help you determine a good massage plan for you and your needs. They should also be able to give you suggestions for things you can do on your own in between sessions or for when you can’t come in.
If you have any questions regarding health and wellness or massage therapy feel free to reach out! At Muscle + Bone we prioritize the care of human beings, whether it means you’re our client or not we want to help people find the right type of care for their needs.