I am often asked "How often should I get a massage?" So here's a little guideline...hope it helps.
I always suggest that you check in with yourself about what your goals and needs from bodywork are and allow that answer to lead the way. Do you have chronic pain? An acute injury? Do you just want a treat? Or are you looking for something to support you in enhancing your athletic performance, to supplement your training for that marathon you've got planned, or to help you stave off that old plantar fasciitis that is threatening to flare up again? The more serious the condition, or the more problematic it is for your life, the more frequently you ought to consider treatment. Nothing is more valuable than getting full use of your body back again!
Once a Month is Not Enough
For chronic pain, just once a month will not cut it. I usually recommend 3-4 sessions in a short span of time to address the major components of the pain first, and then I recommend reassessing after that time. When we are trying to make progress, rather than just maintaining, I don't recommend going as long as 4 weeks. In that amount of time, things can tend to backslide and so we end up having to spend time trying to get you back to where you were, rather than what you and I would both prefer, which is moving you along to the next level. We want to build on what was done in the previous session, not have to re-do it.
Symptoms are Slippery Tricksters
Chronic pain is tricky. It can sometimes take 6 months of consistent work to see the effects you would like, though many of the benefits of bodywork will be available immediately. Your symptoms can be tricky and slippery. And sometimes, the whole body/mind/spirit will improve around a problem, even though a symptom will persist. And sometimes the initial symptom disappears right away never to return, while new and unusual ones take its place.
Things Should be Different
As a general rule though, I like to see symptoms changing, which is why I track my patients progress. Often a patient will come in several months into treatment and will be feeling discouraged. "My back still hurts" is the response to my inquiry. So we go back and look at the initial exam results. "When you first came in you were in daily pain that you described as a 7 on a 10 scale. Today, your level is a 4, with spikes up to 7 or 8. And you have some entirely pain free days." This kind of charting can really help you keep perspective which helps sustain you in your efforts. Is it enough? Are we satisfied with almost daily pain at a 4? Oh hell no! I want to help get you to 100%, but it certainly is progress, and progress is motivating.
Perspective Changes Everything
Another interesting phenomenon of this change of pain level from a daily 7 to an almost daily 5 is how quickly you get used to it. Your body knows what it should feel like. It wants, needs and deserves to be pain free. If you are living with chronic pain, you will be surprised just how fast you will get used to having less pain. Your body will not even notice how much better it feels after just a few weeks. And your tolerance for a bad pain day will go way, way down. So now, you've gotten used to a regular daily level of 4 and you have a bad day and the pain spikes up to 7 or 8 and it feels completely intolerable. You will come in saying "the pain is so bad, it's worse than ever." Imagine your surprise when I remind you that just 6 weeks ago you were living with that amount of pain every day! You can see how tremendous this change can be for a person.
The Boogeyman -- Stress!!!
Ok, so my goal for you, my dear patient, is that you be pain free and able to use your body in ways that bring you joy, whether that means 6 a.m. spin classes, running marathons, dancing with their partners, working in the garden, or just being able to get up and walk to the bathroom in the morning with ease. This goal requires different time for different folks. But once you hit your goals, many of you decide that you want to keep bodywork as a part of your self care routine. This is a great idea! Life is stressful. Hours sitting at a desk or staring at a mobile device put strain on our bodies. Exercise and recreation can take their toll. Those leaves are not going to rake themselves. And then there's the non-physical stuff - cranky bosses, children and spouses, and all other manner of pitfalls that life throws at you. As long as you are living, breathing, and contending with gravity, you've got stress. Bodywork can help mitigate the effects of this daily stress from life. Deep connection, sensitive and therapeutic touch, being heard at a deep level. What could be better? For average stress levels once or twice a month is a good rate for maintenance care.
The New Normal
So here's the upshot. The benefits of bodywork that have been researched and proven are cumulative. What this means is that it's not enough to get bodywork when everything is at its worst and you just can't stand it anymore. The evidence suggests that if you want the best results for increased circulation, increased levels of happiness and well-being, as well as pain and stress reduction, you've really got to make bodywork a part of your self care routine. You wouldn't wait until your teeth were rotting out of your head before you decided to get a cleaning. You wouldn't wait until your hair was a total mess before you scheduled a cut and color. And you should go ahead and schedule your next bodywork session before you leave your appointment. Commit to yourself and be amazed at the results! Added bonus benefits - new levels of self awareness and sensitivity to what is happening in your body and increased levels of self trust and intuition.
Sum It Up
So here's the short version:
Chronic pain: 3-4 session within a 6 week period. Then reassess.
Acute injury or flare up: Every 2-3 weeks for 3 months. Then reassess.
Maintenance care: Once or Twice a month as needed.
Living it up: Cycling between different kinds of bodywork - Swedish one month, Thai massage the next, Connected Body Therapy after that... Ahhhhh...life is good.
Seriously, I'd get one every day if I could.