How many massage therapy appointments did it take for you to notice improvement in your muscle tension?
August 3, 2011 5:48 PM   Subscribe

How many massage therapy appointments did it take for you to notice improvement in your muscle tension? Did these improvements last?
posted by GleepGlop to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You usually feel better after a massage, but when you went back for your next appointment did the therapist note any improvements since the last time?
posted by GleepGlop at 5:50 PM on August 3, 2011

Massages have been great for me when I have an unusual circumstance that leads to tension - short-term stress, travel (planes are great for crunching me up in weird postures,) that sort of thing. In that case just one decent massage makes a huge difference.

They don't help me all that much in dealing with tension caused by chronic poor posture, bad workstation ergonomics, etc. Any benefit only lasts until I screw myself up again, i.e., the next day at work.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:57 PM on August 3, 2011

It really depends on what type of massage you're getting (NMT, Swedish, deep tissue, shiatsu, relaxation, etc.) and the skill of the therapist. Not all of them are intended to produce lasting change. I've had many massages, in many places in the world, and by therapists of varying skill levels. Of them, only three therapists made immediate and lasting improvements.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:37 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

cocoagirl: Of those three therapists, did they share a particular technique that worked well?
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:42 PM on August 3, 2011

I hate to say it but it's almost likes it's luck of the draw -- if you happen to find someone whose skills line up with your particular ills, it can be amazing. Sometimes it's like "Um, okay, this feels nice, but when am I going to get "unhooked" from this thing?" I call it unhooked because it really does sortof feel like it's that big a deal, when the massage therapist is a good fit.

My experience? If they don't catch it the first time you're in the chair (or on their table, whatever), if they don't catch it the first time they're probably not the one for you. I'm not saying that it won't bind up again, to whatever degree, I'm not saying that you'll be all better after one time on their table. Just that -- for me -- if they're going to get it done, I feel it unhook that first time.

(And I'm answering mostly from my recent experience in here, wherein I've hurt myself from extending too far in yoga, and pulling muscles to where they ought not be pulled to, but by massage they relax enough to go back home, as it were.)
posted by dancestoblue at 7:04 PM on August 3, 2011

I think massage is a more fleeting physical benefit in respect to relaxation and muscle tension issues than something like regular yoga or even walking. I do remember how wonderfully relaxed I feel after a massage and try to conjure that memory when I'm trying to relax.
posted by belau at 7:04 PM on August 3, 2011

A good massage therapist can help you with stretches and posture improvements that you can implement when the pain goes away. My personal experience has been one of long-lasting changes once I found the right therapist.
posted by bchaplin at 7:06 PM on August 3, 2011

I have a knot in one shoulder that has been there for YEARS. I have no idea why it won't go away but when I'm stressed I carry the tension in my shoulders so that's not helping. I made it a point to get a massage every two weeks for at least 6 months. Same therapist, and she would focus on that area the most, mainly with deep tissue massage. I love her because she would try different techniques, would remember what worked and didn't work, and was intent on getting that thing to let go. After about 4 visits we could tell that the knot was looser and that my tension wasn't as bad. It kept getting better but I still have the knot (I think it's more than a tension thing but not really willing to go the MD route just yet). I quit going because my schedule got messed up and now I'm just starting back with her.

There is another therapist in the same salon that I see when I just want to relax. She has a different approach to massage, and just doesn't do the deep tissue as well. However, she can get me completely zoned out. For me personally, massage is a huge benefit for me. I tend to have tighter muscles than usual, carry tension easily, and can get some rockin tension headaches. So for me, it helps me stay healthy and is a better solution for me than getting muscle relaxers all the time. It is more than just a "treat" for me.

Overall I think it depends on what kind of massage you want and need. Deep tissue or trigger point will actually be slightly painful (especially when they hit an active trigger point...but it feels SO GOOD when you feel it release!!), and the first time you might actually be sore the next day. If you do have a specific issue that needs to be addressed, getting those types of massages on a regular basis decreases the pain because you are getting rid of those trigger points. A general Swedish or relaxation massage doesn't last as long for me, but each body reacts differently. So I think it depends on the type of massage as well.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:09 PM on August 3, 2011

I usually find that one session is enough to relieve muscle tension significantly and most massage therapists can do it even using lighter, more superficial techniques.

However, the effects generally don't last longer than 48 hours unless you're doing your own homework to make the therapist's work last longer.

A good therapist will have you perform basic actions to determine which specific muscles are bothering you and try to figure out why/what causes it (poor posture, ill-fitting bra, etc). A goal should be set because there's a definite difference in approach between people who want to heal and change vs people who just want maintenance.
During the massage not only will the therapist work the affected muscles but also the opposite muscles (and they'll educate you on why they do it). For example, a lot of upper back issues suggest the therapist should release pecs as well.
After the session they'll suggest some stretching or strengthening exercises/"homework" to do until the next session in order to maintain the new tissue changes and possibly help "fix" the cause of the problem.
Often, when the cause of discomfort is something like poor posture or years of bad holding patterns, multiple appointments will be scheduled because full, permanent change takes some time and work. During the following sessions the therapist will regularly assess the muscles the same way they did the during the initial massage.

Having a massage therapist who does these things (and being a good client who does their homework) are the keys to really seeing/feeling long-term improvement.
posted by simplethings at 2:09 AM on August 4, 2011

One massage on the lower back made it so my head could turn again, but it stiffened up after a few days. After three or four massages over a six or eight week period, the fix lasted longer and longer and I haven't had a problem since stopping those massages last spring. Two of those were whole body massage, two of those were chair.

I had been getting massages on my neck, which was what hurt, but that didn't do anything. A conversation with the woman who runs the massage therapy school revealed that the neck strain was being caused by lower back muscles that had, over a period of a year or two, been clenched (old surgery). My lower back didn't hurt as much as my neck because I'd gotten so used to the clenching so I'd never mentioned it to the people doing the massage. We had to address the source of the pain rather than the effect and that meant talking to someone who really understood how things fit together.
posted by arabelladragon at 7:22 AM on August 4, 2011

Thanks for the responses all!
posted by GleepGlop at 7:53 AM on August 4, 2011

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