How does a massage feel?
Massage on healthy tissue usually feels good. Massage around injured, painful, or tense areas can cause discomfort. Tell your massage therapist how much discomfort you are willing to tolerate. NEVER let a massage therapist work deeper than you are comfortable with. Deep tissue or injury treatment massage may leave you feeling sore for a day or two. Always let your massage therapist know how you felt, so he or she can adjust the massage as needed.
During a massage, you may notice that your muscles are sore, even though you had not noticed soreness before the massage. Here’s why: Each cell in your body, including muscle cells, is a tiny factory that takes in nutrition, produces energy, and outputs waste products. For example, contracting muscle cells require an energy source called ATP, which produces lactic acid. Muscles also burn oxygen, which produces carbonic acid, and protein, which produces uric acid.
If your body and circulatory system are working at peak efficiency, these waste products are flushed out of your body. However, often things aren’t working as well as they could because of stress, tension, too little exercise, too much exercise, medical conditions, and other factors. Then waste products build up in your muscles, creating congestion that causes pain on touch. Massage helps clear out that congestion.
Why does a massage therapist ask about my medical history and medications?
A responsible massage therapist asks about your medical history (most massage therapists have you fill out an intake form). Although massage has many wonderful benefits, it is not appropriate for people with some medical conditions and sometimes must be used cautiously.
For example, massage is not recommended if you have a condition involving infection (including cold or flu) because massage might help the infection spread through your body. Massage is also generally not recommended for people with advanced heart, kidney, or liver problems. Other conditions that affect circulation, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, require caution, depending on your overall physical condition.
Obviously, you should not receive massage if you have a contagious condition. If you have a skin rash, know what it is before your massage, because some skin conditions are contagious.
Medications, particularly pain-killers and muscle relaxants (including aspirin), dull your perception of pain and pressure-your massage therapist needs to know your perception may not be accurate to avoid inadvertently using too much pressure.
Information about injuries, traumas, surgeries, and physical activities provide information about where or how you hold tension in your body. Also, specific massage techniques can help the body heal soft-tissue injuries. If you have back pain or certain digestive problems, abdominal massage can be helpful, but it is not appropriate for some medical conditions. Your massage therapist needs to know your complete and up-to-date medical picture to provide informed and safe massage. Be assured that all medical information is confidential.
What is a trigger point?
A trigger point is a tiny area of irritation in a stressed muscle. Trigger points refer pain, weakness, or numbness to either surrounding or distant areas of muscle tissue. The key clue pointing to a trigger point is that applying pressure to a specific point causes you to feel pain or another sensation someplace else. Trigger points result from trauma, exposure to cold or infection, overuse, misalignment, or chronically contracted muscles.
What are the effects of chronic muscle tension?
Chronic muscle tension inhibits circulation, which means your muscles (and other tissues) aren’t receiving the nutrition they need and waste products aren’t being taken away. The lack of nutrition and toxic buildup of waste irritate nerve endings, resulting in weakness and pain. This toxicity also taxes your immune system.
Chronic muscle tension also inhibits movement. Movement is accomplished by paired groups of muscles alternately contracting and lengthening to move the bones to which the muscles attach. Chronically tense muscles disrupt the symmetry of balanced forces acting on the skeleton, holding bones out of position and causing misalignments. For every chronically tight muscle, its opposite (the antagonist) is chronically stretched and weak. These unbalanced forces also cause ligaments to become strained as they try to brace misaligned joints. All this makes injury more likely. Chronic muscle tension also uses up energy, so you fatigue more easily.
How long do the effects of massage last? How often should I receive massage?
The duration of the effects of a massage vary greatly from person to person depending on your physical and mental condition, activities, ability to relax, and ability to heal. If you are receiving massage to help heal injury or to get rid of chronic pain, you usually need to receive weekly massage until you reach that goal.
If you are receiving massage for prevention, health maintenance, or just to feel better, you have more leeway in how often you receive massage. The effects of regular massage are cumulative. A massage every week or two can make a big difference in your overall health and tension levels. Even a monthly massage is beneficial. Make regular massage part of your health maintenance program (along with good nutrition and exercise), and you’ll feel better.