What are the benefits of massage? What is the best massage technique? How often should you get a massage? To help you answer these questions, I’m going to use exercise as a metaphor because massage and physical training are similar in many ways.
What would you say if someone asked you about the benefits of exercise or what exercise is the best? Perhaps you would answer something along the lines of:
- It depends on what your goal is.
- It depends on how frequently you train.
- It depends on how long you have been training and how consistently.
- It depends on who your coach is and so on.
I think you get the point: “the best exercise” depends on what it is that you want to achieve, and the benefits of that exercise will depend on how you do it, how often, and how long.
That is where massage is similar. The outcomes of massage will depend on
- The type of massage
- Therapists and their skills
- Injury history and status
Let’s break it down further
There are places you can exercise regularly without a specific / customised / personalised approach – your F45s, Barry’s Bootcamps, Orange Theories’ and most of the group classes in Fitness First and Virgin etc. You will get a decent workout that isn’t aimed at any individual body imbalance or physical issue. However, you might feel fitter and more energised and improve your cardiovascular fitness or strength if you go consistently.
Similarly, there are massage places that offer a ‘cookie cutter massage’ such as, for example, your local Thai, Chinese and Balinese massage parlours, hotel massages or an average masseuse that performs Swedish or relaxation massage. The benefits of such massages include general relaxation, loosened muscles and calmed nervous system, and stress management.
Going back to exercise, you can also have your specialised club, register for training programs or have a personal trainer to help you achieve a specific goal. For example, CrossFit studios might prepare you for CrossFit comps, and powerlifting gyms help you with those heavy-weight PBs.
Triathlon/running clubs will get you over the line of your first tri or marathon faster and healthier than you could do it alone. Personal trainers and coaches will help you reach a specific fitness or sports performance goal. You will get more focused and specialised training than in generic group training studios.
Once again, massage is very similar in this regard. You can select and opt for a well-educated, trained, and experienced Remedial or Sports Massage Therapist who would conduct a detailed initial conversation and assessment to understand your specific goals and issues. They would perform tests, posture checks, and movement assessments to design a treatment plan. If you are preparing for a competition or sports challenge, a Sports Massage plan will help you progress through the workouts faster and with less effort and damage and speed up your recovery. A good therapist will also educate you about recovery and injury prevention methods and techniques you can implement at home or the gym.
Like any service, you get what you pay for, and some of the less costly massage options might produce fewer benefits, just like cheaper group classes. Conversely, a good trainer might cost you more, like a good therapist, but there is a reason for it, and you will get more bang for your buck.
Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist and pro-athlete
Owner of Revive Australia massage clinics.
Follow her on @revivewaterloo