Do you have a massage gift card languishing in a junk drawer? Do you drive by a spa and make empty promises to treat yourself? It’s time to take action and get on the table. More than a self-indulgent luxury, massage bestows a wealth of emotional and physical benefits. And you don’t have to wait for a $400-an-hour session to reap the bounty of relief. Here are tips and resources to maximize the healing powers of this practice, which dates back to ancient China.
Why Massage Is Good for You
Most of us are stressed out. Too much to do in too little time. Too distracted by a 24/7 cacophony of hyper-connected, technology-induced babble. Job and other stresses are seen as a global health epidemic. Sometimes just unplugging isn’t enough. Massage is proven to help.
According to research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Mayo Clinic, massage helps heal a variety of ailments. Of course, a massage can help relieve muscle tension. But massage can also help regulate blood pressure, reduce stress, boost your immune system, counter insomnia, treat depression, help heal a sports injury and alleviate pain related to chronic headaches, back issues, arthritis and more.
How to Find the Right Massage Therapist
In addition to asking friends and family for recommendations, check that massage therapists and spas are properly credentialed. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork certifies practitioners. They pass a national examination and fulfill other requirements. Most states regulate massage therapists and require them to have a minimum of 500 hours of training from an accredited training program. For example, you’ll find information on the California Massage Therapy Council website including how to file a complaint, how to verify certification, information on the California Massage Therapy Act and more.
Also, be mindful of the kind of experience you’re seeking. Do you want an all-day, read-a-book, sip-iced-tea-by-the-Jacuzzi option? Or will a quick, in-and-out, targeted sports massage, foot massage or chair massage suffice? Many spas are designed to deliver optimized holistic relaxation that indulges all of your senses. Hence, the experience often includes mood lighting, aromatherapy, soothing music, light food, and wine or champagne (but know that most massage therapists say to avoid drinking alcohol before and immediately after your treatment).
How to Prepare for a Massage
First off, make sure you’re medically cleared for a massage. A good therapist will ask if there are any existing ailments or specific areas of extra muscle tension as well as areas to focus on or avoid. Think through and communicate your goals. Here are a few other tips:
- Don’t eat a big meal before a massage.
- Take a warm shower or steam beforehand to loosen up muscles.
- Drink plenty of water before and afterward.
- Remove your clothes only down to your comfort level. Full nudity isn’t mandatory.
- Be honest with your preferences, including how hard you want to be massaged. Being in excruciating pain doesn’t mean your massage is necessarily better.
Remember, this experience (finally) is just for you. Indulge. Breathe. Make the most of your time on the table.
Feeling cozy in the sanctuary of your own home? The good news is that there are now a variety of apps that bring the massage to you—even for a couples massage. Massage-on-demand apps include Zeel and Soothe. Don’t worry about not having the right equipment, as massage therapists bring the table, sheets, oils, and lotions. Some therapists even bring music, lighting, aromatherapy and more. Soothe also offers a business-to-business program, Soothe at Work, for in-office and corporate events.
How to Give/Get a Massage at Home
Are you more of a DIY massage person? No need to cull through the plethora of random massage tutorials on YouTube. There are professional apps and on-demand online courses offered at hubs such as Udemy.com. Here you’ll find basic massage techniques, couples massage tips and more. Apps that teach you to finesse your loved one with just the right touch include Massage Techniques, Massage Body Spots, Massage Lite, Muscle Trigger Points and Learn Muscles.
The shoulders, head, neck, feet and the lower back are all major carriers of tension. Sure, there may be a reasonable amount of pain if you’re working out a knot in a muscle, but don’t rub so hard you’re causing an inordinate amount of discomfort, or worse—risking damage to the spine, arteries, bones, nerves, joints or more.
Setting a soothing environment is important, as is selecting an oil or lotion (try jojoba, almond, coconut or sunflower oil). Relaxing essential oil scents that can be used as an aromatherapy boost include lavender, vanilla, rose, sandalwood, citrus, jasmine and Ylang Ylang. The Apps Relax Melodies, Relax Melodies Seasons and Relax Melodies Oriental produced by IPNOS combine ambient sounds, white noise and relaxing melodies to ease your ears into comfort.