What to do between Therapeutic Massage Appointments:

First, take a moment to think about why you get massages.

If you like to get massages to help increase or maintain range of motion: keep moving and try foam rolling. The phrase “motion is lotion” is accurate when it comes to easeful movement. Movement increases blood flow to muscle tissue as does massage. Similarly, rolling on a foam roller or tennis or lacrosse balls in a way that is pain free can also help move fluid around in your tissue. Think of your tissue like a dried out sponge that alternately gets dipped into water, then squeezed out, then dipped back in etc etc. This is akin to what a compressive massage and a foam roller does to the fluid in your tissue. If you are working an area like the front of your thighs or quads, you can be particularly efficient by also bending and straightening your knee while you are leaning into the roller and then working your way from the hip to the knee end of your thigh. Think: “Compress, bend/straighten knee, move an inch to the next spot, repeat.”

If you seek out massage for relaxation, try to recreate the state of calm you experience during or after your massage by practicing daily breathing exercises. They can be simple and short. Get into a comfortable position, try to breathe slowly through your nose and, if possible, slow down your exhalations the most.

If you come to massage for pain management, follow the same breathing instructions as above. A large part of managing pain is staying out of a chronic fight or flight state. (And learning to recognize when you are in an anxious state so you can pause.) Breathing slowly is the easiest way for you to influence your nervous system. It is the one “tool” that is always available to you and that you have control over. Slow exhales tend to be especially relaxing for most people. Try to breathe in towards the bottom of your pelvis and out towards your throat with your spine long and neutral (vs very flexed or very extended). Try to keep your shoulder still vs letting them lift up towards your ears when you inhale. Instead, let your abdomen and ribcage expand in all directions (vs just forward and up) and find a rhythm and breath length that is longer than your day to day breathing but not so long that it stresses you out. Another strategy you can try is gargling or humming. While this may sound strange, those actions require activation of nerves that tend to also stimulate the rest and digest branch of your nervous system. 

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