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  • Sarah Rose

Why You Should Get A Massage

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]



I had my head smashed into a massage table hole, and I couldn't help but wonder what my face looked like from below. I was drooling a little, and breathing each time the masseuse instructed me to. "Out!" she would say, and I'd breathe out deeply. "In!" she would command, and I'd breathe in, like a duckling coming up for air, because as I've already told you, my head was in the table hole. It's a little bit strange to breathe on command, and as her hands pressed heavily into the knotted muscles of my upper shoulders, I thought I saw stars. As she finished rubbing my upper back, I opened my eyes for just a moment and noticed that she wasn't wearing shoes.

She wasn't wearing shoes because, in a few minutes, she would walk down my back, then onto my taught inner quads as she worked my legs with both feet and both hands. I was sweating a little bit, and also trying not to laugh. At one point, she rubbed my foot and it involuntarily kicked at her, "whoopsie!" she said, as if she had merely spilled some water on her shirt instead of nearly avoiding a broken nose. At one point, she was rubbing my calves, her elbows pressed into my gastrocnemius, grinding slowly from side to side. "Strong calves," she said. And I pictured my calf as a fat, roasted turkey leg, the kind you can get at the county fair.


It was a Thai massage place, and as she pulled and twisted and stretched my body, I decided that dentists and masseuses aren't all that different. Dentists give our teeth tiny massages that sometimes, don't feel so good at the time, but you always feel better later. My favorite massages are ones that don't always feel so good in the moment, either. I like a little bit of discomfort. I want to feel the knots in my muscles being pushed apart. I want to sweat and wake up the next day feeling a little bit noodled and a little bit sore.


For as much as I run and lift, I don't stretch as much as I should. I do yoga once a week if I can, and halfheartedly use my Theragun roughly eight times a month. Massage is something that can benefit anyone, but especially runners, and I'm going to tell you why.


I prefer deep deep tissue massage, which is a specific type of massage technique that uses firm pressure and a slow stroke to get into deep layers of muscle and fascia. It's used to break up scar tissue and break down muscle adhesions or knots. Massage is widely accepted as both a tool for relaxation/stress relief and to alleviate pain. For runners specifically, massage can help us avoid injury by addressing areas of tightness before they become problematic. Massage therapists can often pinpoint what might be causing a certain area to be tight as well, and this insight can help you address areas of weakness.


I try to get a massage every other month. If you are a runner or other type of athlete, avoid getting a deep tissue massage before a hard workout or long run, since your muscles can feel fatigued or sore afterwards.


Benefits of massage therapy:

1. Stress Relief: Most of us carry tension in our shoulders, neck, or hips. Massage can help reduce stress by decreasing the physical symptoms of stress. It can also help relieve tension headaches and reduce blood pressure. Massage can help lower cortisol levels and increase levels of oxytocin, which is a hormone that relaxes the body and produces soothing effects. Finally, it can also increase the production of serotonin, which can make you feel really good.

2. Reduce Pain: While this might seem obvious, massage can help a number of conditions like lower back pain, plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, and more. Muscle tension that usually occurs with chronic pain can also be lessened with deep tissue massage. Research has shown that deep tissue massage can be more effective for relieving chronic pain than medication or other medical treatments, and is usually more cost-effective as well.

3. Break Up Scar Tissue: After my hip surgery in 2014, my trainers would massage the incision point to break up the scar tissue. If left untouched, it may have resulted in prolonged pain or stiffness. Getting regular deep tissue massages can help break up scar tissue by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage. This can also improve flexibility and range of motion in the area of the scar tissue.

4. Help Muscle Injuries: The best time to get a deep tissue massage for an injury is before the injury happens. Massage increases blood flow, aids in muscle mobility and range of motion, and can help speed muscle recovery.


Massages aren't cheap: the average cost for a one hour massage is $100 for one hour, and you'll probably be expected to tip. Check to see if your insurance covers massage therapy, or set up a Health Savings Account. Some massage schools offer discounted rates as well. Find more ways to save on massages here.


P.S. Read more about lymphatic drainage massage here, read about which type of massage might be best for you here, or read about the benefits of using a Theragun here.


xoxo


Sarah Rose

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