We all know that there are some amazing benefits to massage and the chances that you will feel much more relaxed after a massage than you did before receiving one are fairly high. However, you may experience an after-effect, or two, such as muscle soreness, dizziness, or an emotional release from that massage. This month I want to talk about some of the more common after-effects of receiving a massage, what they are, and even some things that my clients and I have found to be helpful.
The easiest way for me to explain this after-effect is to think of a massage as a type of “workout” for your body. A low-intensity workout would be like getting a Swedish or CranioSacral massage. It gets you warmed up, works some of the kinks out and, in general, relaxes you. A high-intensity workout would be like Deep Tissue, Trigger Point Therapy, and similar massages. Your routine got kicked up a notch (or two, or three… depending on how deep the massage and/or the number of restrictions needing to be released). It really gets your juices flowing and works out some of the deeper kinks. If you experience this after-effect, both my clients and I have found that doing one or a combination of these things to be helpful: Staying properly hydrated, stretching, and using either ice or heat on the area.
While you may have moved forward from any trauma, stress, or other similar situations that you had been through during your lifetime (childhood, accidents, loss of loved ones, etc.), your body could still be holding onto some of those emotions. During a massage, your body could have a release of those emotions, but it can also happen outside of massage with something as simple as a touch from a friend, a kind word, or even a fragrance. These releases can be experienced in a wide array of different ways: A sense of something lifting off of your shoulders, crying, shivering, sorrow/distress, and many other sensations, both emotional and physical. Everyone’s release is different and is not the same across the board. When you experience one of these releases, know that it is a natural occurrence and it is a sign that your body is completely ready to let go of whatever it was holding onto. The most helpful thing for this after-effect is to let your body complete its release so that your body can finish moving forward from whatever it was holding onto.
Just as you can become slightly dizzy or light-headed when you stand up a little too quickly after sitting or laying down for a while, a massage can have that same effect. Through massage, no matter the modality, your body’s parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) system is activated and goes into a relaxation mode. Therefore, it needs just a little bit of time to “wake up” before you get up and start moving around again. For this reason we recommend that you take your time getting up from the table after a session.
There are other after-effects that you could experience after receiving a massage. These include increased hunger and/or thirst, increased need to use the restroom, and nausea/flu-like symptoms. The first four in this category can be due to the increased digestion and metabolic function that massage can promote. The nausea and flu-like symptoms can be due to not eating enough prior to your massage, being improperly hydrated pre and post massage, or a large release of trigger points and/or adhesions in your muscles/fascia during your massage. The things my clients and I have found helpful for these after-effects include: Eating properly throughout the day, staying properly hydrated, and using the restroom prior to the start of the session.
It’s key to remember that not everyone experiences after-effects, and any that you may experience could be the same or different from the last one. Best thing that you can do is to communicate with your therapist with what you are feeling before, during, and after your massage. This will help them to know if they should adjust their pressure, what techniques to use or avoid, and also be able to give you proper recommendations for you to try in-between your massage sessions.
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