What is the best way to ensure that you get the best results from your massage and make the effect of the treatment last for as long as possible? What should you do and not do on the day of your treatment? Here are four of my after care recommendations that I often share with my clients at the clinic.
Gosh we’ve all heard this before! Why are we always encouraged to drink more water after a massage treatment? Simply because massage is dehydrating for your body. It is a passive workout for your muscles, even though you (lucky thing!) get to relax on the treatment table during it. And as with any workout, you should rehydrate your muscles afterwards.
If you are like me, and struggle with getting enough water into you, try flavouring plain tap water with sliced fruit or fresh herbs. Mint, berries, citrus, sliced apple and cucumber in a jug make a beautiful infused drink that is much healthier than the sugar-laden flavoured waters or soft drinks from the supermarket.
In the winter I fill my (non-plastic!) drink bottle with warm herbal tea, such as peppermint or lemon & ginger, as I find warming teas easier to drink when it is cold outside.
Skip vigorous exercise after a massage treatment in order to give your body a chance to rest and recover. Yes we generally encourage you to move and get active, but not directly after the massage. As mentioned before, massage is a workout in itself, and you don’t want to undo all the good work done to relax and lengthen your muscles. However, gentle walking and stretching is fine.
Resting also means having a nap or going to bed extra early on the day of your treatment (and why not other days too if you can manage it!). Your body does most of the tissue repair when you are asleep and a good nights’ sleep is the best after care you can give yourself.
If possible, avoid watching or reading news or hanging around in various social media platforms in the evening as these are mentally stimulating activities that may impact the quality of your sleep.
HOT AND COLD THERAPY
Baths (especially with a cup of Epsom salts thrown in), hot showers or heat packs are fantastic for muscle relaxation after a massage. They may also help with some post-massage soreness, which can sometimes occur in the next day or two after the treatment.
If your injury is acute or inflammation (redness and swelling) is present, use ice packs instead. A general recommendation is15-20min at a time 1-3 times a day or as instructed by your therapist.
Or you can try my favourite technique that my mentor likes to call “the Seven Steps”. In this method you start by applying a heat pack onto the problem area and leaving it on for one minute. Then you apply the ice pack, once again leaving in on for a minute. Keep alternating this for seven minutes, in which case you end up finishing with the heat. This technique essentially flushes the muscle by dilating and contracting the blood vessels, helping to push the built-up toxins out of the tissue. Heat is a muscle relaxant whereas ice acts as natures own pain killer, numbing the nerve endings and dulling the achy sensation in the muscles.
(And please do wrap your hot and cold packs in a tea towel or something similar, as you don’t want to burn your skin!)
Lastly, we get to my favourite topic. Being kind to ourselves.
Notice how good you feel after you’ve had a massage. Your body feels lighter, more relaxed and pain-free (or close to it!) maybe for the first time in a while. I bet your mind is at ease too, you feel happily blissed out, and that thing that was annoying you before may not bug you quite as much anymore. Simply, you feel more like yourself.
Remember the feeling and seek for more moments like it. Make a promise to yourself to keep looking after you. Allow yourself to receive the care that you know you deserve and schedule regular time slots for self care, whatever that means to you. A massage, facial, coffee date with the girls, early morning yoga class, sleep in, play with the puppy, drawing a picture, dancing to your favourite song in front of the mirror. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it makes you feel alive!