After their treatments, many clients ask me how often I think they should (ideally) come to receive massage. It really all depends on where this unique individual stands. My answer will vary as there are many factors to consider.
Do they have an active injury? Is it in an acute or chronic state?
Are they in a healing crisis or do they just need a tune-up?
Are they receiving massage to reduce stress, manage symptoms, or for general wellness?
Or are they adding massage to enhance athletic performance?
Once I have the opportunity to look at the overall picture – understand their goal with their therapy, visually assess, palpate, and see how their body responds to bodywork; I am better able to give my professional advice on how often someone should come.
Important factors that determine duration recommendations are:
∙ Occupation – the physical demands being placed on their body at work
∙ Hobbies – are they active, over-active or are they sedentary?
∙ Repetitive Movements – to what degree are their joints and muscles sustaining repetitive motions?
∙ Stress Levels – how is stress being managed?
∙ Posture – current state?
∙ Restorative sleep – Are they getting enough?
Other questions I might also take into account are:
- How do they balance their lifestyle? What other types of self-care do they do and how often? Are they seeing other health care providers?
- Do they fuel themselves well and do daily things to care for their bodies? Nutrition, hydration, pH Level and sleeping patterns are all going to influence our work together.
A well-fueled, less inflamed body is probably going to respond better, recover faster, and hold the bodywork longer than if the opposite were true.
Here are some general guidelines for how to determine how often you should receive massage:
I will start here. Not because this is the starting point, but rather because this is where you will want to get – to maintenance. This is massage for general wellness, preventative care, or pain/stress management.
Most people’s maintenance falls roughly between 2-6 weeks, depending on the factors mentioned above. People who have received regular bodywork in the past are usually able to unwind faster and may need less frequent treatments because their body remembers how to relax and find neutral with less effort.
Maintenance schedules vary but generally speaking, it looks something like this:
- 2-4 weeks if they have high stress, have a physically demanding job, and/or are warrior athletes
- 4-5 weeks if they are moderately active, eat fairly well, and have little to no pain
- 6 weeks if they have low stress or a low impact lifestyle
In order to reach maintenance, if a person is in relatively good shape but hasn’t had any bodywork recently. it usually takes 2-3 sessions that are 4-14 days apart to get closer to baseline. Again, this all depends on how severely tight you are, and how long you have been this way. If you are in worse shape, to begin with, see the rehab section below.
All in all, no matter how it’s scheduled, consistent bodywork truly works wonders!
For Active Injury (Rehab)
While rehabilitating an injury (acute, chronic, pre/post-surgery), it is best to come in once a week for 4-8 consecutive weeks. The number of sessions is determined by the type of injury, severity, other therapies that are being implemented, and overall health of the body. Nearly all injuries require a minimum of two treatments before the pattern has transformed. It is nearly impossible to access and treat every single layer involved in only one treatment.
This is why it is best to address an injury early on. Because the longer you wait to address the problem, the harder and more habituated the holding pattern becomes. That said, with each successive treatment, a therapist is able to get deeper through the layers, eventually reaching the bones, and leading to progress and permanent change.
Though we may not always be able to work directly on the injury site, we are able to work around it. This can help decrease swelling and improve the processes of repair. Massage can also address secondary problems that may arise such as with the overcompensation (over-use) of the opposite side, pain as a result of using crutches, casts or braces, having your weight shifted over to the uninjured side, and reduces scarring.
For Chronic Conditions
The older a condition is the more solid and ingrained it will become in the soft tissues. Eventually, with over-use, a tight muscle/tendon will begin to weaken, reshape the bones, and changed the way they are positioned.
For example – if you tear a rotator cuff muscle, the intelligence of your body will protect your shoulder from further injury by creating a natural splint (pulling your arm in close to your body and restricting movement). This is a great mechanism at the beginning more acute phase. But as time goes on, it will begin to harden and become a habit.
Neglecting to intervene in this healing process, by not receiving any chiropractic, acupuncture, physical or massage therapy may result in: restrictions in the soft tissues and joints, pain, inflammation, deterioration, the building of bone spurs, nerve entrapment/impingement, the inability to do certain motions and perform certain activities (dysfunction), undesirable changes in your posture, affect muscles tone (strength, shape, and flexibility). The longer this goes on, the longer it takes to correct (such as with frozen shoulder).
For Peak Athletic Performance
If you are placing heavy demands on your body, such as training for a race or tournament, then you may want to plan your treatments around your training schedule. Weekly or bi-weekly treatments are useful during training periods. Before the event, you may want to have a massage 3-4 days before to support you in peak performance and then 2-4 days afterward to help reverse wear and tear and speed up recovery time.
Including massage into your regimen is beneficial because it increases bodily awareness, which leads to heightened focus and precision. It increases your range of motion and flexibility. The increased circulation helps fuel the muscles – giving you more energy to work with, greater endurance, and helps you repair more readily.
Whether you are trying to reduce the amount of stress and tension you feel, healing an injury, alleviating pain, counterbalancing wear and tear, playing sports, or proactively taking steps to slow down aging…Massage therapy is an invaluable piece of the puzzle for maintaining a healthy high functioning body. You can get massages on special occasions or on an “as needed” basis. However, one thing seasoned receivers of bodywork understand is that bodywork works best utilized as a lifestyle. In order to receive the maximum benefit, it is best done routinely. just as with eating healthy and exercising.
Want to learn more about benefiting from bodywork’s application? If you’re curious and want to explore this topic further, read some of our other blogs