"There’s no reason to have “meh” when you can have a great one!"
– Beth Bentley
I’m a New Jersey Licensed Massage Therapist and have decades of experience as a massage client. I’m a member of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and serve as the recording secretary of the New Jersey Chapter’s Government Relations Committee. I went to massage school at Cortiva Institute in Hoboken and serve on the school’s Program Advisory Committee.
Like many of us, over the years I’ve had great massages and “meh” massages. The good news is that there’s no reason to have “meh” when you can have a great one!
If you have ever had a bad massage, you ended up stressed out by something that was supposed to be relaxing. If you’ve never had a massage, you may be stressed out by the mere thought of trying out a new experience. We all have more than enough stress in our lives. We don’t need to add to our stress by having to figure out what to do to get a great massage. I’ve done the figuring so you can reap its relaxing benefits.
We all need to relax, and massage helps us do that by releasing the “feel good” calming chemicals serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals settle us down after we’ve faced a “fight or flight situation that released the” hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Back in the day when humans were hunting or running away from bears, these hormones gave us a helpful boost in energy. After we got away or vanquished our prey, the physical effort caused these hormones to subside naturally and the calming chemicals to surge. Now that we were safe, we could gather around the fire and chill.
Unfortunately, modern-day threats aren’t as easily subdued. After we win a skirmish during an exchange of emails, the physical effort from tapping keys isn’t enough to burn off the hormones. In addition, we worry that the danger hasn’t really passed. What if our email gets forwarded to the wrong person? What if we missed a deadline while distracted by the volley of emails? We don’t produce enough calming chemicals when we remain poised to fight or flee from continuous threats. While the stress hormones are helpful in short bursts to enable us to spring into action, it isn’t healthy for our heart to keep beating faster, our blood pressure to stay higher and our muscles to remain tense for the extended periods they must in reaction to the continuous threats of modern life. Stress causes or worsens many physical ailments. By reducing stress, massage can prevent you from developing or help you cope with medical problems.
With my tips to take the stress out of getting a massage, you can enjoy a massage to reduce your stress while getting one that is not only awesome but also the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
Pick a Pro Massage Therapist
Make sure you go to a Licensed Massage Therapist. Click here to find one. You’ll get the best results from a solo practitioner rather than going to a business where the massage therapists have only 5 minutes between sessions.
Save Pennies with Bennies
Most of us don’t realize that our aches can be considered a medical issue. Livestrong, a foundation providing support for those with cancer, offers tips for getting a doctor’s prescription to get your massage reimbursed by your health insurance company or through a healthcare flexible spending account.
Know You Knead It
According to the Mayo Clinic, scientific studies demonstrate that massage is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. While most of us view massage as a pampering indulgence, it helps us get out of physical and emotional pain. The American Massage Therapy Association Massage has been found to be especially effective for those with low back pain, anxiety, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hypertension. It improves immunity, reduces post-surgical pain and provides benefits for cancer patients.
You’ll be more comfortable if you have your last light meal two hours prior to your massage. You don’t want to be lying on your full, bloated tummy while your back is massaged. If you have digested your last meal, you are less likely to pass gas. Massage therapists are trained to be non-judgmental, but you may be stressed or embarrassed if you do. Enjoy your coffee in the morning, alcohol at happy hour, and sips of water throughout the day, but avoid gulping them an hour before your massage. You don’t want to have to jump off the table to pee. Because massage increases circulation, alcohol will be flushed into your system faster which can make you feel as sick as if you’d drunk much more.
Make Time For Timelessness
Massage is all about relaxation, so be sure to give yourself enough time so you don’t feel rushed. Especially if you’re that person who is always frenzied, figure out how long it will take to get there, tack on some extra time for the inevitable transpo nightmares, and add another 15 minutes. Chillax when you get there on time instead of worrying about being late.
Be a Breath Boss
Once you’re on the table, focus on your breath. Too often in our rushing around, we forget to breathe or constrict our breath to keep our abs tight. Let your belly expand on your inhale to give your body the oxygen it needs and exhale slowly. As you slow your breath, your muscles relax a bit which makes it easier for the massage therapist to relax them even further. It will also slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
Manage Your Monkey Mind
Instead of following your racing thoughts, follow the hands of the massage therapist. If you are tensing a muscle being touched, clench it on an inhale and release it on an exhale. Imagine that you are resting on a fluffy cloud. Relaxing your mind will give yourself the best opportunity to fully enjoy and appreciate the benefits of your massage.
Share about Pressure
Let the massage therapist know if you want more or less pressure. Speak up if changes to the room temperature, music or lighting will make you more comfortable. Otherwise, give your mouth muscles a rest to get the best results from your session.
Extend The Zen
After the massage therapist leaves the room, slowly roll like a lazy cat onto your side, keep your neck relaxed and use your arms to push yourself up to a sitting position. Take your time to stand up, dress, and absorb the results of your session.
Relax & Repeat
Getting a massage about twice a month to once every few months is a good way to keep your tissues healthy and pliable. If you are under stress, in pain or recuperating from surgery, you may want to go once a week until you feel better.
Because I’ve always loved getting massages, I am surprised to hear that some people are wary about the experience. I’ve discovered that sharing what to expect with my clients helps them to relax. However, you may not be getting the full benefits you could have even if you enjoy getting them. With these tips, you can rock your massage sesh. Now schedule your next massage already. You deserve it!
Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst