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This is a question that I get very often in my practice and the answer to this question is, it completely dependent on the condition that the client is presenting with as well as the short and long term goals that we are trying to achieve.
This is often determined during the initial assessment process, whether I’m seeing a client at a clinic or when they are receiving an in home massage.
It is worth mentioning that massage therapy is used in the treatment of upto 96 conditions, everything from stress management to musculoskeletal conditions such as neck and shoulder pain, sciatica or low back (lumbar) pain. Some people patients under the advice of their counselor will receive massage therapy in the treatment of psycho emotional conditions.
When most people come in for massage therapy, this is often because they are experiencing pain or discomfort. It may be an acute pain (between a few days to about month old) or chronic (pain that they have been suffering from for 6months onwards, sometimes for years).
Regardless of how long the client has had their discomfort the short term goal is often to relieve the discomfort as quickly and as safely as possible. The long term goal is often to eliminate the pain completely and prevent future flare ups by retuning the musculature involved with the condition.
It helps to visualize a couple of common scenarios:
Client Complaint: Aches and pain in the neck and shoulder from working at a computer station for an extended period of time.
Duration: Ache started about a month ago and client has had no therapy for it, but feels the pain is increasing.
Assessment: Lets say after proper assessment I determine that there was no trauma or pinched nerves and the condition is strictly muscle related, I will definitely want to make sure that the client has a good understanding of the cause and effect of their posture and lifestyle as it relates to their condition.
Treatment frequency: This is where we discuss the ‘How often should I get massage therapy’ question and again all the factors that pertain to the condition is considered as well as their goals.
As a short time goal (pain reduction), I may recommend 4 30mins treatments every 5 days for pain reduction and to relieve all the affected muscles associated with the condition.
I may defer the discussion of long term goals of proactively preventing a recurrence, till their last appointment when we will evaluate the success of our short time goal.
Lets say, at the 4th treatment, we’ve completely eliminated the discomfort and massage therapy has been beneficial for the client, then I may advice the client to come in for massage in 6 weeks. Its always very important for me that my clients not only experience short term pain relief but that they also continue to utilize self care tools on an ongoing basis so that they don’t experience a relapse.
I will write another article dedicated to self care as this topic is incredibly broad.
Self care for long time pain free maintenance in this instance may include, tools to correct poor posture, strengthening and stretching of key muscles and ongoing massage therapy as part of proactive care.
IF in 6 weeks, the client reports that they have been pain free this is when I may advice them to keep a calendar to determine their own ‘as needed’ time line.
Ideally, what I will like to see is for my client to experience long term pain free living where they are receiving massage once every few month as a prevention or on an as needed basis.
Client Complaint: Stress from a physically and emotionally demanding life style.
A lot of us have challenging periods in our lives, be it professionally, home life, demands from parenting and to top it all off, it’s -12degrees out side and you have to shovel snow off your car every morning to make it to that stressful job in heavy traffic.
Duration: While periods of stress is a part of life, chronic (long time) ongoing stress is very tasking, not just emotionally but also physically. Very often people seek an in-home massage as part of stress management.
Assessment: Unlike the first scenario, this person has been suffering from high stress for a long time so it is key that massage therapy is not only physically benefical but emotionally and mentally beneficial to them. This is where an in-home massage shines.
In Home Massage Therapy: One of the obvious benefits of receiving massage at home is that it not only saves you time, (there is no travel time), it allows you to get the most out of your treatment as you can remain in a restful state right after your treatment. I often advice patients to consider having their massages in-home if they live a stressful life and there is no clinic or spa within CLOSE walking distance of their home.
Most people don’t realize that chronic or long term stress is a real medical condition that can affect multiple parts of ones life, from mood, sleep, the ability to maintain a healthy weight and even the body’s ability to heal from physical injuries effectively and quickly.
Massage therapy in numerous studies rates very highly as one of the best alternative therapies for stress reduction. People will often report, reduced heart rate, better sleep, improved mood and sense of balance.
Again, this depends on what is causing the stress and how much stress we’re talking about. For example someone who is caring for a terminal parent or habitually works 12hour days with lots of travel simply has to consider massage as their ongoing stress management regimen as long as they are in that stressful situation.
This is unlike someone who has just gone through a tumultuous move or relocating to a new city where they may have been suffering from that stressful situation for a couple of months. For this scenario, 3 treatments in the course of a month should have them feeling right as rain.
In conclusion, the best way to know how much massage therapy you should be getting is by talking to a skilled registered massage therapy who can perform an assessment on your condition and provide you with a personalized treatment plan.
At Spa-In Mobile spa, though our focus is providing in home massages in Toronto and around, our focus on assessment and client care is at the center of our service.