How often should I get massage?
It all depends upon why you are receiving massage and what you hope to get out of it. Bob Hope reportedly got a massage every day. He could well afford it! Some people use massage as part of their stress or health management, others for injury treatment, others as a luxury or “treat”. A caregiver for a dying relative will have different needs then a person with shoulder/neck issues related to too much computer use.
If you want to make health care changes then the amount of massage you receive is a factor of where you are, vs where you want to be in your body and mind. Also how motivated and able you are to incorporate other activities to get you where you want to go. As a general rule of thumb I recommend at least once a month for overall health and wellness. These are what I like to call my "tune up" massages. More frequent sessions are recommended when rehabilitating an injury or addressing areas of pain or restricted mobility.
What techniques do you use?
Below are some of the massage techniques that I may incorporate into treatment:
Swedish massage: Considered the typical “spa” massage. Tends to address the more superficial structures. Includes gliding, kneading and cross-fiber friction with the intent to move blood towards the heart and break up adhesions in and around the muscles and connective tissue. Primarily focused on increasing circulation and promoting relaxation.
Deep tissue massage: Similar to swedish but with the intent of addressing deeper structures and adhesions of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Fingertips, knuckles, forearms, and elbows may be used and you may be asked to breathe deeply in order to facilitate release in chronically stuck areas,
Pregnancy massage: Various massage techniques applied and adapted to different stages of pregnancy. Frequently done in side lying position with bolsters during the second and third trimesters to increase the mother’s comfort and reduce both ligament strain and hydrostatic pressure on the infant.
Myofascial Release (MFR): Addresses the fascia, or connective tissue of the body. Fascia surrounds all muscles and structures of the body including organs, nerves and blood vessels. Connective tissue can glide smoothly or become stuck together resulting in pain and restricting movement. Can be addressed through holds that result in unwinding or release of adhesions.
Structural Integration (SI): A type of bodywork applying MFR that focuses on re-aligment of the body by altering the length and tone of myofascial tissue. Originally known as Rolfing but now there are other offshoots of schools that utilize this terminology. The intent is alwas on postural alignment through the myofascial system. I am not a "Rolfer" but I utilize some of these techniques that I have learned from various continuing education classes based on Tom Myers' Anatomy Trains.
Thai massage: Considered by some to be "partner yoga massage" it is traditionally done on a mat on the floor in loose fitting clothing. The therapist uses his/her whole body including feet to move the body into various positions to obtain release. In the West some of the techniques have been adapted to the massage table and this is referred to as “thai on the table”. I utilize some thai on the table techniques in my practice.
Positional Release (AKA Strain/Counterstrain): An indirect technique involving the nervous system that moves the body into positions of comfort and away from pain. Uses holds of 90-120 seconds to facilitate release. Very gentle technique that can be used in cases of acute trauma as well as chronically tight or spasmed muscles.
Reciprocal Inhibition: Another nervous system technique that uses muscle contraction on one side of a joint to relax contracted muscles on the opposite side of the joint.
Muscle contraction: In treatment I sometimes have clients do isotonic or isometric contractions. In an isotonic contraction the tension remains unchanged but the muscle length changes. It may shorten (concentric) or lengthen (eccentric). In an isometric contraction the muscle length remains the same but the tension may be altered. Isometrics are done to strengthen a muscle in an isolated position whereas isotonic contractions strengthen a muscle throughout a range of motion. I may use these in assessment, or treatment, or both.
Stretching: I may incorporate active, passive, or active assisted stretching as part of my sessions to assess or treat range of motion limitations.