How Often Should You Get a Massage For Maximum Benefit?
Regular massage reduces the effects of stress, manages pain, and helps with anxiety and depression. However, the definition of regular, isn't always clear and obvious. The question I get asked most frequently is: how often should I be getting massage?
The answer: it depends.
Many health needs and lifestyle factors go into to determining the frequency of massage that will most effectively support your health and wellness. These include: your massage goals, how you use your body, self-care habits, life stressors and budget. Everyone uses their bodies differently and needs a different level of care.
Identify Your Goals
There are lots of reasons to get a massage. Some clients want a once-in-a-while treat, while others need to recover from injury. Others turn to massage to get through particularly stressful times, or as a part of their physical and mental health maintenance. The first thing to consider when determining how often to get a massage is your goal for getting massage in the first place.
If you're looking to reduce general stress and improve relaxation on an ongoing basis, then a massage every two to four weeks will be beneficial. This'll help you keep a consistent level of relaxation and stress relief. If you're looking for an occasional massage to help unwind, then once every few months may be just right for you.
If you're dealing with chronic pain, injury or high stress, more frequent massage will be helpful. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, people dealing with chronic pain or injury may benefit from massage therapy one to two times per week, for several weeks. After that, you can reduce the frequency of your massages to once a month or a few times a year.
For those looking to use massage as maintenance for physical and mental wellness, a general guideline is once every two to four weeks. This frequency allows you to maintain consistent physical and mental benefits and addresses issues before they become big problems.
How do You use Your Body?
If you're seeking out massage to manage pain or tension, another factor to consider is how you use your body and the source of your pain.
If you've sustained an injury from an unusual event, say a car accident, a slip and fall, or a pulled muscle, it can be a smart choice to get weekly or twice weekly massage up front to facilitate healing and get you through the pain. Once you've recovered, you can reassess your physical and lifestyle needs to determine what frequency will benefit you moving forward.
If the pain is from repetitive use and stems from something you do and will continue to do on a daily basis, like working at a computer or a job that requires a lot of physicality, maintaining a frequent massage schedule will benefit you. Relief from work related neck and shoulder pain is beneficial, but if you go back to your daily grind of hunching over a computer for hours on end, those postural related aches and pains will come right back. In this case, treat massage as ongoing pain prevention and management at a frequency of about every two to three weeks.
For people who heavily use their bodies and rely on optimal functioning, such as athletes, physical laborers, or weekend warriors, a weekly massage will help address issues before they become problems that interfere with your ability to perform how you need to.
People dealing with chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia, spinal dysfunction or chronic migraines, often benefit from weekly massage to manage the frequency and severity of pain.
Consider Your Self-Care Habits
How you use your body and what level of pain or stress you're dealing with generally guides how often you should get massage for maximum benefit. However, it's also important to consider your other lifestyle choices related to self-care to help you make a smart choice.
Massage clients who regularly exercise, stretch and use self-massage techniques at home generally see longer lasting benefits between massage sessions and can often go a little longer between sessions for general wellness maintenance massage.
Clients relying solely on professional massage services to keep their bodies feeling good will need to schedule massage more frequently to maintain those feel-good gains achieved from massage.
One of the proven benefits of massage is how it reduces the negative health consequences of chronic stress by stopping the production of the stress hormone - cortisol, lowering blood pressure and triggering our feel good hormones which facilitate feelings of calm, safety and well-being. The more stress you deal with on a daily basis, the more frequently you'll want to recieve massage.
Budgeting for the Long Run
Be realistic about what frequency of massage your budget will allow you to maintain, and choose a schedule you can comfortably afford to stick with for the long run. For health and maintenance, consistency is more important than frequency. Your health and lifestyle may indicate that you'll benefit most from a massage every week, but it would be better to get a massage once a month if that's what you can actually afford to stick to consistently. There are self-massage techniques you can learn to do at home that will help supplement your professional massage sessions and stretch the benefits between massages.
The Nitty Gritty
Ultimately the best frequency for getting a massage depends on your lifestyle, overall health, and what your budget will allow. When deciding how often to get a massage, it's important to consider these individual and changing factors. If you use massage as health and wellness maintenance, are in generally good physical shape and maintain regular self-care habits at home, the most common frequency for massage is once every three to four weeks. If you have an injury, heavily use your body or deal with a large amount of stress, you may need more support with a weekly massage. And if you're dealing with chronic pain and tension, massage every one to three weeks is the most beneficial for pain management and to regularly relieve the stress that comes from living with pain.
Another tip to getting the most out of your massage sessions is to get in the habit of scheduling your massages forward or booking a regular, reoccurring time slot. This way, you're less likely to brush off your self-care and stick to a consistent schedule leading to steadily received physical and mental health benefits. It's also a real treat to look at your schedule for the week and realize that you already have a massage scheduled!
If you're unsure, talk to a licensed or certified massage therapist to determine the best frequency of massage for your personal needs.