It seems like we all know that massage is good for us. It makes us feel less sore, more mobile, and less stressed. While these are a few obvious symptoms that we usually benefit from each time we go for a session, there are many less obvious, deeply complex reactions happening in your body that allow you to feel this delightful, albeit, temporary, relief from the stresses of everyday life. With any habit in life, frequency matters big time. If you eat ice cream before bed once a month, it might affect your mood, mucus, digestion, or energy the next day, and it might not. If you eat ice cream before bed every night, it’s not a matter of if, but when, you’ll begin feeling the effects of this daily habit. Likewise, if we lift weights once a week, we aren’t going to see significant muscle growth very quickly, if at all. That’s why bodybuilders are in the gym 4-6x/week. This is due to the cumulative effect. Pretty simple concepts to understand, right? The same goes for massage. Get a massage once a year, and you’ll feel relaxed for the day (or perhaps a couple hours). Get a massage once a month, and you’ll keep your body moving and functioning better. Get a massage once a week, and you’re able to address many needs of the body, both chronic and acute, as well as move into mental/emotional and even spiritual healing of the soul. Let’s talk about 3 major ways that monthly maintenance massage will be one of the best decisions you can make for your health and happiness:
#1: Massage Therapy is Healthcare.
#2: Massage Therapy is Therapy.
#3: Massage Therapy Heals.
I don’t need to convince most of you that America’s healthcare system is a mess. The average annual premium for a covered American worker sat just below $8000 for 20221. And the average out-of-pocket expense was over $1700 before the average covered individual hit their deductible. 30 million Americans are uninsured. And the average 3-day hospital stay costs over $30,0002. Many people are turning to alternative healthcare practices in order to avoid these expenses as well as the inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and potential complications of many traditional western remedies such as pharmaceuticals, which can cause a cascade of harsh side effects and lead to a dependency on more and more pills. Those who choose an Alternative Medicine path may experiment with using a combination of complementary therapies to help craft their personalized healthcare experience. Tools like herbs, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation, for example, are all science-backed modes of Alternative Medicine that can relieve current symptoms and prevent them from returning in the future.
Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years as a cost-effective solution to managing pain and chronic health conditions, in many cases, by reducing the inflammation response. In this video, Andrew Weil, M.D. explains the inflammation response and says that, “There is a growing awareness that many chronic, degenerative diseases, and certainly all of the diseases of aging are rooted in inappropriate inflammation.” When a moderate pressure and soothing technique is applied to the body during a professional massage, the body’s inflammatory response reverses, the nervous system relaxes, and healing begins to take place. The bottom line comes down to the fact that massage produces tons of healthcare benefits like circulating blood, lymph, and qi through our tissues which eases soreness and pain, boosts our immunity, improves sleep quality, lifts our mood, keeps us limber, improves range of motion, and creates body awareness within yourself while being evaluated superficially head-to-toe by someone who is trained to palpate and visually assess your entire body (ensuring that atypical moles and lumps don’t go unnoticed). When instituted at least once a month, massage therapy can begin to reduce and prevent both current and future undesirable symptoms, allowing you to maintain a higher level of health which just might have you heading for the doctor’s office a bit less frequently.
In May of this year, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy declared the Loneliness Epidemic in America a cause for extreme concern and immediate action as he shared that experiencing loneliness for many is having detrimental health effects on the body that are equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day, and increasing the chance for premature death by up to 30%3. While loneliness has likely existed as long as humans have, the time and culture that we live in today are expediting the ability for this feeling to spread like wildfire across the U.S. and the globe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, children reduced their in-person interaction with friends by 70%, and adults cut their socializing by two-thirds as well. Loneliness is being fueled for many by the ongoing work-from home culture, increase in technology as a part of our daily routines, and social media serving the place of face-to-fact interactions, leading many of us to feel alone, and in turn, sad and anxious. This takes a toll not only on our mental bodies, but our physical bodies as well. While these statistics can feel shocking, they can also be used as motivation to turn things around and begin to heal the separation that these new societal norms may have created. So what’s the answer?
Of course we can and should prioritize more in-person interactions, less screen time, more nature time, and one of our favorite solutions is of course–you guessed it–more massage therapy. Receiving mindful, professional massage on a regular basis is an incredible way to re-establish the feelings of connectedness within yourself as well as the humanity around you by receiving healing touch–an innate human need that has become all too rare for many of us. A study from the American Journal of Neuroscience finds that after regular massage therapy, average decrease of the stress hormone cortisol was 31% while the increase of happy hormones serotonin and dopamine was 28% and 31% respectively4. So what’s “regular massage?” Long story short–the jury is still out. However, we do know that frequency does play a substantial role. In a different study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and approved by the Cedars Sinai Medical Center’s International Review Board, they conclude the following:
The data suggest that massage therapy has cumulative and sustained biologic effects over the course of 5 weeks. Results of the first approach, comparing baseline biologic measures to postintervention data after the final session in week 5, indicates that there are cumulative biologic effects of massage and light touch, and that these differ according to the frequency of interventions5.
While we can see that the science does support our own beliefs that massage therapy frequency does matter, we also acknowledge that part of the magic of healing lies in its mystery and artform. The act of receiving in Traditional Chinese Medicine is labeled as a yin action, where yin is half of the yin/yang opposition and partnership of passive and active energy in the Universe–and our bodies. When we are on the massage table, we are able to allow the mind to rest from our worries and responsibilities, and simply focus on the sensation of our bodies being nurtured with intention from a trained and caring professional.
Regardless of the state of your body and mind when you get on the table, your therapist and the bodywork exist to help you feel better. Whether you’re dealing with a biologic factor like elevated blood pressure, immunodeficiency, or a sports-related injury, for example, massage can help you. If you're dealing with psychological symptoms like depression, PTSD, or burnout–among others–massage can help you. In the quiet, the space we create as client and therapist, we come together with the mirrored intention of getting out of the way so that the body and mind can heal itself. Massage provides safe touch for those who may be healing from the unfortunate circumstances of having been exposed to unsafe touch in their past. It provides a space where the client can come to be free from obligations, where they can release their pains without the fear of judgment.
As with any therapy, the recommended frequency will depend on the current circumstances. If the client is dealing with active insomnia and anxiety that is affecting their ability to perform at work, for example, the therapist may suggest twice/week massage for 2 weeks, once/week massage for 4 weeks, and then monthly massage as maintenance, as long as the symptoms have subsided well enough to allow the client to maintain their desired level of health under this session frequency. When you truly begin to integrate massage into your healthcare toolbox, you will begin to understand your body and its needs much more easily, and you will intuitively begin to understand when it’s time to begin booking a session weekly or every couple of weeks versus allowing some more space in between sessions. As someone who has spent lots of time on the massage table myself, I’ve now come to understand when I need the work, what type of work will best serve my body/mind/soul, and who I’d like to perform the work. It is my goal to empower all of my clients to be able to do the same for themselves. At 702 Bodywork, we value healing above all, and massage therapy is our medium to achieve this. We stand behind the notion that monthly massage is a healthy maintenance frequency for many of our clients, and this is why we’ve created our monthly membership options for our local clientele. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about our services, and we look forward to assisting you on your healing journey soon.