Just about everyday I get asked whether it would be a good idea to get a massage. Almost always my answer is absolutely! I am a big fan of massage as a healing art and a therapy. As with all professions, there are very good practitioners and some that are not so great. I have, of course, known patients who have been to massage therapists that caused more discomfort and may have even caused some tissue damage. However, most therapists do a good job helping people relax their muscles, free their fascia, move their lymph, etc. Remember, massage therapists in the State of California are licensed and have many hours of schooling and practice and if you go to a reputable clinic, you will be in good hands.
Like chiropractic adjustments, it is rarely bad to get a massage at any time. However, also like adjustments, the type of massage must adapt to the body’s condition. For example, when people ask if they should get a massage right after an auto accident, I am often hesitant to endorse such a therapy. The right kind of massage can help flush out inflammation and soothe really sore muscles. However, if the massage therapist is too aggressive the muscles might spasm completely. In addition, massaging recently injured tissues can cause more swelling. On the same note, massage, when muscles are in spasm, requires a special touch. Most massages will help settle down spasmed muscles. Notwithstanding, if the muscles are spasming, chances are they are doing so to protect an injured joint. Take away what is protecting the joint and there are often painful consequences that could prolong healing.
Another question that often comes up is whether it is better to get a massage before or after an adjustment. Most people think that getting massaged before getting adjusted means they are relaxed for a better adjustment. While that is true, as a chiropractor, often times I find that if the muscles and the joints are too relaxed, it can be difficult isolate the stiffer joints and get them to move properly due to the laxity of normal functioning ones. In general, I prefer to adjust people before they get massaged. Adjustments can settle muscles that are tight while protecting joints that are not functioning properly. Personally, I much prefer to get massaged after getting adjusted because it allows me to enjoy the massage better. At the end of the day, it really comes down to preference whether one gets adjusted before or after an adjustment, but more often than not, I would choose to get adjusted before getting a massage.
Regular massages are wonderful thing. How often and how long you need to be massaged is a great discussion to have with your therapist. Additionally, people respond to different techniques and therapists. I have had many massages throughout the years from various massage therapists. I have also enjoyed some styles better than others. Some massages I enjoyed the results much more than the process. To that point, some people feel a massage has to hurt to be of any benefit. I disagree. Sometimes the body needs to be worked over significantly and sometimes it just needs a light touch. A good massage therapist who is intuitive and willing to listen to the patient will know what to do and when.