Getting the Most From Your Massage
by Irma Morawietz
You’ve been working hard and finally decide to release some of the tension built up in your body with a massage. Getting a massage is an investment in you. You deserve it!
Because you’re spending precious time and money, it’s worth planning ahead to get the most out of your massage. Here are some tips to enrich your experience:
• Take a hot shower or hot tub shortly before your session. That will loosen up your body and enhance your massage.
• Wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting a little oily afterwards.
• Drink a glass of water before the massage; this will help you stay hydrated.
• Let your therapist know if you have any allergies to scents or skin sensitivities that may require avoiding certain scented oils, candles or other fragrances.
• Take a few deep belly breaths when you get on the table, to release any tension.
• Let your massage therapist know about any injuries or tender areas.
• Make yourself a partner in the process. During your massage offer feedback if pressure is too deep or too light. This is your massage, so you get to direct the pressure.
• After your massage drink water to stay well hydrated and help flush out toxins.
Massage as formal practice has been in existence for about 5,000 years. Many cultures — including Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Japanese, Greek and Roman — used massage as a form of healing long before the modern era. Today massage is used to aid in relaxation, to reduce stress and to enhance healing.
Experienced massage therapists know many different massage modalities and use a variety of techniques to release muscle tension. They find an intuitive balance between your body’s needs and those various techniques as they deliver your massage. Their approaches are tailored to you, and take into account any injuries or particularly tender areas you may have. Your therapist’s hands read your body and move to ease the areas of discomfort, paying attention to your body and your requests. It’s a bit like a dance; there are subtle signals to guide the therapist’s flow.
Massage as part of a training regimen
A recent study published Feb. 1, 2012, in the journal Science Translational Medicine by researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, validates the long-held practice of athletes using massage as part of their training regimen. The study shows that massage reduces inflammation and boosts healing in fatigued muscles. Prior to this, massage was used “without a huge amount of scientific underpinning,” according to study author Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, head of the division of neuromuscular and neurometabolic disease at McMaster University.
This study examined tissue samples from the thighs of 11 men who had exercised vigorously. One thigh was massaged and the other was not. Samples from the massaged thighs showed reduced levels of two different inflammatory proteins. “Our work raises the very interesting possibility that endurance exercise may be enhanced, or at least the benefits may be enhanced, for those who have a massage following their exercise,” Tarnopolsky said. It may surprise many that the study showed no difference in lactic acid amounts in the massaged versus unmassaged tissue.
It is a commonly held belief that lactic acid is a by-product of exercise, but there’s more to it than that. Newer studies indicate it is an energy source for muscles and not something you would want to remove. Another commonly held belief has been that lactic acid is reduced by massage, but that is false.
Questions and answers for those new to massage
If you’ve never had a massage before, you may have some questions. Here are some of the most common ones, and some answers.
What does a massage cost? On the Coastside, an hour-long massage varies from $70 to $160.
Tipping? A tip of 15-20 percent is appropriate to show appreciation for a massage you enjoyed.
Can you get a massage in your own home? If you would like a massage in your home, expect to pay an additional $10-$20 travel fee.
Do I have to remove my clothes? Most forms of massage are performed with oil or lotion on bare skin. The therapist will give you a few minutes alone to disrobe, and will ensure you are appropriately draped throughout the massage. Underwear is optional depending upon your comfort level. If you want to remain fully clothed, consider Tui-Na or Shiatsu massage.
Won’t I get cold? That’s very unlikely. The room should be heated to a comfortable level, you will be draped, and many therapists use a heated massage table.
When is massage not a good idea?
• If you are sick or think may be getting sick, don’t get a message. A massage may make you worse and you wouldn’t want to transmit an illness to your massage therapist or the therapist’s other clients.
• If you are over-fatigued you may not get the full enjoyment of a massage.
• If you have any open sores or skin conditions, massage may be contraindicated.
• If you have any doubt about whether you should get a massage or not, a well-trained massage therapist should be able to tell you if a massage would be a good idea for you or not.
What if I am pregnant? Pregnant women can enjoy a massage. You should confirm with your doctor that it would be OK, and ask if your therapist is trained in pregnancy massage.
On the Web:
Irma Morawietz is a licensed massage therapist practicing in Half Moon Bay; she has been practicing for 30 years. She is also a certified nursing assistant. Contact Morawietz at 650-888-8988 or by email at Baden50@yahoo.com — or visit her website, www.MassageOnTheCoast.com, for more information.