Getting a massage is a wonderful, relaxing, therapeutic time in our routines! In the midst of our bliss or startling at the sound of our own snores, we can think of “getting a massage” as a completely passive act. But active participation in the experience can rev up results and add another dimension to the work.
One of the most (hopefully) obvious and encouraged forms of active participation is telling your therapist when you feel especially tender or painful areas. Even though massage therapists are apt at palpating for irregularities in soft tissue, the tactile characteristics of what we feel do not equate to the level of sensation you experience. Making your therapist aware he or she definitely found a spot and subsequently if the pain is decreasing, increasing, or remaining the same tells your bodyworker if what is being done is helping or if a different approach is needed. It also ensures that you do not leave your session disappointed or with a sense of incompleteness!
Being vocal and as accurate as possible about where the pain is centered or traveling is just as important as how much pain you feel. Again, your therapist can most likely tell when an area is breathing freely. She or he will also have a good sense of where to go next. But your feedback ensures that exactly the right spot is being worked. Moving pain can also be frustrating, so allowing your bodyworker to walk you through the logic behind why your pain might seem to jump around can greatly minimize catastrophic thinking, further helping to decrease the unpleasant sensation.
Breathwork, visualization, and resisted movement are also active roles you might take in your massage session. Bringing your conscious awareness to the body part being addressed has been shown to enhance somatic work and increases body awareness, a tool that will help you maintain overall health in everyday life. Doing this by directing your breath into the area your therapist is touching or that is causing pain, or imagining the pain flowing away or the tension softening raises the energy flow through that space. It also instructs your central nervous system (aka your brain) to pay more attention to what is happening, giving it the opportunity to correct imbalances by recognizing that the tension is inappropriate for your current, relaxed and horizontal body position. Resisted movement likewise engages the nervous system, leading to better results. With the exception of resisted movement, you can choose to utilize any or all of these tools at any point during your session to enhance your massage even without your therapist’s direction. We sometimes think of our healthcare team members as “fixing” us. But everything we do is only to help guide your body back into its natural state of healing. You are doing all of the work. Ultimately, no one will know your body better than you and no one else will ever inhabit it. Let these tools empower you, remind you that you are in control. What methods do you use to take an active part in your massage therapy? How are you actively engaged in your overall health and healthcare? Let me know in the comments below!