5 ways to get the most out of your massage experience


(BPT) - Massage therapy is known for its relaxing and restorative value, but did you also know that it is a powerful health-care tool for your body and mind? To get the most out of your next massage experience, follow these tips from Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, the leading association representing massage therapists and bodyworkers.

1. Set goals

What do you want to get out of your massage? Do you have any injuries you'd like to target? Are you holding tension in certain areas because of work or stress that you would like to address? Or do you need some general hands-on therapy to help loosen up? What type of massage you'll need will depend on your goals.

Before you head to your massage appointment, think about the reason for your massage. When you meet your massage therapist or bodywork professional, let them know your goals for the session so they can gauge how to properly address your needs.

2. Prepare your body

On the day of your appointment, make sure you've had a light snack beforehand, but nothing too heavy that might create discomfort while you're on the massage table. Stay hydrated before and after your session, and avoid intoxicants or alcohol.

Massage is a physical activity, and it helps to prepare your body accordingly. Gentle stretches before your session not only get your muscle tissue ready to receive bodywork, they help you detect areas that need additional attention and can help you feel more comfortable as you lay on the massage table.

3. Start the session relaxed

Before your massage starts, try and relax so you can be physically and mentally ready to receive the therapeutic benefits of a massage. One way to relax is by using breathing techniques. An easy technique to remember is Box Breathing — breathe in while counting to five, hold your breath for five counts, slowly exhale for five, hold again for five counts, then repeat. Try listening to relaxing music while breathing to promote relaxation as you prepare for your massage.

4. During the session: Communicate

By having clear and open communication between client and massage therapist, practitioners can create a successful therapeutic massage experience together. Don’t be shy to talk about your level of comfort with the massage table or face cradle, or the level of pressure the therapist is using ... even the temperature of the room.

Just like going to your doctor, a massage is a form of health care administered by professionals and should be treated similarly to any other health care experience. For a session to be safe and effective, the practitioner must set clear boundaries and expectations and the client must understand what a therapeutic massage session does and does not include. Open and clear communication is paramount to creating a successful therapeutic massage experience.

5. Post-session: Wind down

After a session, it's important to let your body wind down and feel the effects of the massage. Here are some ways to wind down after a massage session.

  • As you wind down, think about your goals and assess if it was a successful massage experience and what could be done to improve your next session.
  • Continue to replenish your body with healthy foods and plenty of water so you can feel your best.
  • Relax! Breathe, listen to music or do whatever you prefer to stay calm and let the effects of the massage settle in.

When administered by licensed professionals, massage therapy is a powerful form of health care that provides wellness, self-care, therapy, relief and comfort. Using these tips, you'll set yourself up for a relaxing and productive session.

To find a massage or bodywork professional in your community, visit MassageTherapy.com.