So you have just had the best massage of your life and you are feeling amazing, a couple of tender spots but amazing! What you decide to do next and for the following 24 hours will either prolong and enhance the effects of your massage or have you needing to book in with your therapist sooner than you may have needed to.
Firstly when we say to up your water intake, do it!
With increased circulation of blood and lymph during a massage, fluid is moved from the tissues and into the lymphatic system to be cleaned by the body. This can make us feel thirsty after a massage and can also increase urine output, dehydrating us further. Drinking water is an important way to assist the body in flushing out the waste products released from the muscles during the massage and re hydrate the tissues. The lymph system needs adequate water for it to function properly and if it doesn't have it, can become sluggish. When the lymph system is sluggish the toxins build up and can lead to aches, pains, fatigue and lowered immunity.
We always have filtered water available in the clinic rooms so have a couple of glasses as soon as you get up from the table. Over the day try to increase usual water intake by a third. Be cautious with alcohol and caffeine intake as these can act as diuretics, causing more dehydration. Not only can it make you go to the toilet more but the increased circulation can decrease your bodies tolerance to alcohol. It is best to avoid alcohol and this will aid your body’s detoxification process.
Turmeric acts as a powerful natural anti inflammatory and is great for helping bring down any post massage inflammation. Use good quality powdered turmeric and add a pinch mixed into an inch of water and shot it down three to four times over the next 24 hours. It can also be easily found in its fresh form and added to smoothies or other dishes.
If your tension headaches are aggravated by sitting in front of your lap top or your calf pain flares up when you are running it is a good idea to take time out of these aggravating activities for the next 24 hours if you can. Massage creates change in muscle length and tone so it is a good idea to let your body become accustomed to changes that have been made. Go easy and refrain from anything strenuous for at least 24 hours. If we think of massage as a form of passive exercise, it is not uncommon to feel almost a post workout soreness afterwards. As with exercise, the time of post massage rest and recovery is super important.
Heat or cold....or both.
In some cases massage can be effective for acute conditions but with increased circulation and blood flow this can sometimes cause increased inflammation. Applying ice to areas with redness, swelling and heat will help to bring inflammation down and take the edge of the pain symptoms. This treatment should only be used for a day or two post treatment and only ice for 10 minutes at a time so normal circulation can return to the area.
More commonly heat is the recommended treatment post massage. Putting a heat pack or hot water bottle on the area or taking a warm bath can encourage continued blood flow in and out of the muscles. This increase in circulation to the area aids in flushing the tissues of waste products released during the massage and encourages healing. This helps to prolong the effects of massage and keep the muscles relaxed and the nervous system calm. Chronic pain, especially back pain, is often strongly associated with tension, stress, anxiety and hypersensitivity so it is important to follow the massage up with treatments that aid the calming of the nervous system.
A warm bath is a great way to relax both the body and the mind and really increase the effects of the massage. Adding Magnesium oil or Epsom salts to your bath is a great for easing aches and pains. Magnesium is absorbed really well through the skin and warm water will help to open the blood vessels and increase the circulation. We sell a fantastic liquid magnesium called Karma Rub at out clinic which is great for using in the bath or you can easily find Epsom salts at most supermarkets. There are also a range of essential oils which are great for aiding recovery and make a beautiful addition to your bath.
My recipe for a beautiful recovery bath:
1-1.5 cups of Epsom salts
A few drops of essential oils (Chamomile, Rosemary, Lavender, Ginger, Marjoram and Sandalwood are all great for muscle tension, inflammation and relaxation. Check any contraindications before use.)
A small handful of fresh lavender, rosemary or loose chamomile tea leaves.
Candles and a good book.
Apply Karma Rub to any areas of tension and leave on for 5-10mins before getting into the bath.
Make sure you have water and a big cup of tea at hand. (Lemon-Myrtle, Ginger, Fennel and green tea are all great for detoxification and reducing inflammation)
Hot/ Cold contrast showers are another great way to recover and reduce muscle soreness. Think footy players and their ice baths. This is not a new concept and has been used since the Roman days. The idea is to increase the circulation with the warm water, opening the blood vessels and increasing blood flow the the tissues. The cold water closes the blood vessels and moves blood inward to warm the organs. The method is as follows;
Have your normal warm shower.
At the end turn to taps to cold and blast the water over any areas of tension for 10 seconds.
Turn taps back to warm for 30 seconds then back to cold.
Repeat 3x finishing on cold.
This process is great for detoxification of the body, as well as reducing muscle soreness and always leaves you feeling invigorated. I have using contrast showers for the past five or so years and it always helps my body to recover after a big day of massaging.
Massage helps to increase the length of short muscle fibers and stretching is an important way of maintaining this. Keep moving to help your body get used to increased flexibility - remember for joints and muscles, MOTION IS LOTION. Your therapist will often recommend stretching which is aimed at increasing mobility and flexibility and improving range of motion. Do it! It is going to help enhance and prolong the changes that the massage has made in your body and help to reinforce new neural pathways to the muscles. This is how we create long term change in the body.
Anti-inflammatory creams or oils
There are a range of fantastic natural creams and oils which aid in muscle recovery and decreasing any inflammation. These are good to use post massage as well as using as part of your regular wellness routine. Arnica, magnesium oil and Emu oil are all great natural topical anti-inflammatories. Both magnesium and emu oil have trans-dermal qualities which means they are easily absorbed through the skin and into the deeper lying tissues below. We have a range of great products including Karma Rub (a Aussie, family owned pure liquid magnesium with Lemon Myrtle added), E-balm (which contains emu oil, arnica and some great anti-inflammatory essential oils) and Antiflamme (which has arnica and soothing peppermint for inflammation). Have a chat to your massage therapist on which product they think would be best for you.
Look after your emotions and check in with yourself
It is not uncommon to find that after a massage you feeling more emotionally sensitive. Sometimes pain in the body can be associated with emotional pain and working these areas can cause an emotional release during or after the massage. Stress has a huge effect on our hormones and emotions as well as how we hold tension in the body. It is a healthy response to have an emotional release as we address these and let go of stress and pain. Be gentle on yourself during this time and let the healing happen. This can be a good time to talk to friends and supportive people in your life.
It is important to be aware of how you feel after your massage. Really bring you attention to how your body feels when you are not stressed. How are your shoulders and neck when you are relaxed? How about your jaw? Really pay attention to these changes as this attention aids in reinforcing change in the brain and creating stronger neural pathways.
Each of these tips are super important for getting the most out of your massage, prolonging the effects and essentially giving you more value for money...who doesn't like value for money! Bring some of these practices into your life on a regular basis, not just post massage. This will help you on your path to long term change and wellness. As always check in with your massage therapist if you have any questions at all.