top of page
  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Why can't you fix me with one massage?


Why can't you fix me with one massage?

Massage can do some amazing things. It can calm and relax a baby, help an athlete reach peak performance, or help relieve chronic pain. But as amazing as massage is, it isn't a magic potion that fixes everything instantly. As much as we wish it was that easy, massage is very much like any other form of therapy, exercise, or anything new - it takes time, repetition, and regular practice to get the best results.


So why is this? Why can't massage fix everything in one shot? It seems very straightforward - a muscle is tight and it hurts. Massage loosens tight muscles. Therefore, massage a sore muscle, pain goes away. Easy right? Not quite. While that basic concept of massage is correct, there is much more going on than it seems.


First of all, what is causing the pain? Is the pain from an injury, or from a chronic issue like the way you sit at work, or just overall stress? Even if the massage can help the pain go away or calm down, if the original source of the pain doesn't go away, the pain will just come right back. In the case of an acute injury, massage is part of the healing process, so while it may help speed the healing, it is ultimately up to the body as to how fast it heals, so multiple massages may be needed early on to help the body along in the process, then the massages can slow down and space out as the body takes over and recovers. In the case of more chronic issues such as posture or stress, even if the pain and tightness isn't so bad that it is considered an injury, massage can loosen the tightness, and may help the pain calm down, but the next day, the same routine may make it all come right back. So acknowledging the source of the pain can be a big part of making the massage more effective and beneficial.

Why can't you fix me with one massage?

Next, it's just tight muscles, why can't massage relax them permanently? While massage does make some major effective changes to the body right away, our bodies are simply not that smart. Our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones are all affected by something called 'muscle memory'. Like training or practicing a skill, our muscles learn every time we do something - good and bad. If we practice sitting up with good posture, over time, our bodies will feel more natural and comfortable sitting with good posture. But likewise, if we sit with our heads bent forward and shoulders hunched for long periods of time every day, the muscles in our shoulders, necks, and even low backs, adapt to the way they stretch and are held because that is how they spend a lot of time - so our bodies think, "we spend so much time here, this is how it is supposed to be". Likewise, our bodies like to balance themselves and be even, so for example, if you lift something heavy and it causes a spot on one side of your back to spasm and get tight, and it goes untreated, the uninjured other side of your back may tighten up in a similar spot and way just so it can "match" it's counterpart and keep the body balanced and even.

Why can't you fix me with one massage?

When massage comes in to tackle this, it basically has to train the body to "re-learn" what it is "supposed to be like". We have to basically create a new pattern of muscle memory in which the body and muscles realize that relaxed is what is supposed to happen, and tight is not. I often tell my clients that however long it took to get the pain in there, it can sometimes take just as long to get rid of it. Plus it isn't just retraining the muscles. Sometimes, depending on what is causing the pain and tightness, or how long it has been there, the initial top layers may not be the only thing that needs attention. Muscles have many many layers and if the real problem is in a deeper layer, massage may need to get the top layers relaxed and calmed down before being able to even reach the deeper layers where the problem is, and that often can't happen all at once - each layer will need to be relaxed and "re-trained" before the work can be effective the deeper it goes.


Why can't you fix me with one massage?

While massage can give relief, for it to make a complete fix that doesn't keep going back to being in pain, it takes time. This is one reason that it is recommended to make massage part of a regular routine, and why there is no one straight answer to the question, "How often should I get a massage?" Just like regular exercise or practice, regular massage can help your body re-learn how to be relaxed and teach your muscles that not tight is good. While it is difficult to sometimes find the time, and sometimes massage is only possible as a once-a-year "treat", the best way to make massage truly effective and lasting, and actually "fixing" an issue, is through regular routine, possibly multiple sessions, and overall more than just rubbing a tight muscle until it relaxes.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page