“How was your massage therapy session?”
“Good, but within a day or two, the muscle tension was back. It’s like I had never even had a massage.”
I’ve had sooo many physiotherapy clients over the years give me an answer along those lines. And this has nothing against massage therapy – I love getting massages and am in full support of visiting a qualified therapist on the regular.
But perhaps there’s more we can do than just absorb the hands-on work, in order to be able to provide a different answer to that question?
I’ve compiled ten tips for getting more out of your massage therapy, or other hands-on, treatment. *spoiler* it involves a fair bit of mindfulness.
1. Arrive early
Plan to arrive early to your appointment to avoid the tension that goes along with feeling rushed. Consider the time of day you’re booking for, and if you have no choice but to book your appointment during a busy driving time, do your best to factor in buffer time so that you can arrive at the clinic as relaxed as possible.
2. Wait mindfully
Upon arrival at the clinic, wait mindfully. This could mean staying off your phone and channelling the (hopefully) relaxed vibes of the clinic space. Try tuning into your breath, or getting a sense of how your body is feeling in the moment.
3. Stay present
During your massage, stay present with the body sensations that come into your awareness, as you’re able to. If you find this too difficult to do at times, switch your focus to observing your breath, or the feeling of the sheets against your skin. Come back to the body sensations when you feel ready to.
4. Give self-compassion a try
Take notice of the quality of your thoughts during your massage. Are you criticizing yourself for not coming sooner? Or for not doing enough stretching or yoga? Or for not taking enough breaks from sitting throughout the day? Acknowledge these thoughts, then gently let them go. At least for the duration of your treatment, try to send loving and caring messages to yourself.
5. Ask your therapist for a home exercise
Following your massage, if your therapist hasn’t done so already, ask them to show you an exercise or 2 to help ease tension wherever it was felt the most. This can then be part of your self-care program going forward to help keep tension at bay.
6. Proceed mindfully
As you step out of the therapy room, proceed mindfully. Stay present as you make your payment, leave the space, and make the trip home. If possible, stay off your phone for a bit longer, and tune into how you’re feeling in this moment.
7. Hydrate as instructed
A massage moves toxins out of your muscles and into your bloodstream. Hydrating adequately post a treatment is an important part of the self-care process. If you’re not sure how much fluids to drink, have a conversation about it with your therapist before you leave.
8. Listen to the wisdom of your body
Between treatments, tune into your body sensations often. The signals our bodies send us can be seen as early warning signals. They tell us when our body needs attention – whether that’s another massage or other forms of self-care (there are many!)
9. Find calm from within
Massage therapy, or other form of hands-on therapy, is an external method to bring calm and relaxation into our lives. When we practice mindfulness regularly, we learn to find that calm from within. We learn to rely on our own capacities to feel at peace and have less muscle tension. Not to mention, mindfulness cultivates body awareness, resulting in the tuning into our body’s needs on the regular. When we tune in, we can then decide what care our body needs in that moment.
Cultivating this awareness can allow the benefits of a massage to have a more lasting benefit.
10. Take care of yourself regularly
Remember that taking care of yourself is an act of sustainability. When we take care of ourselves, we have more energy to work from in order to take care of others, and the planet. Create a self-care list and plan do it regularly. Drinking enough water, spending time in nature, connecting with loved ones, are but a few examples of taking good care of ourselves.
Which one of these tips will you take with you to your next visit with your massage therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist, osteopath, or other related practitioner?