This is the most commonly asked, yet most complex question. And it doesn't just end with massage, but rather how often should I be stretching, mobilizing, foam rolling, massaging, chiropractic and the list goes on . It seems the more into health and wellness we get the more and more we need to do to maintain it! It can be rather exhausting. So although there is no “black and white” protocol to how often you should be doing anything, we thought it might be helpful to write a guideline of sorts.
First, we must understand some terms, goals, and expected outcomes. Doing something simply because it is “what you're supposed to do” or because “everyone else is doing it”, might benefit you but how would you know? What are you measuring and gauging to see changes?
For some, this may be as simple as reducing pain in everyday movement, reducing headache frequency, or regaining range of motion. For others, it may be more complex and multi-leveled specifically for the athletes. You may want to do preventative work, increase flexibility in one area but gain stability in another, and possibly break up scar tissue in another. All is doable, it is just the importance of knowing what your expectations are so you can measure the differences and changes after each session.
Much like diet and exercise the goals and outcomes are different for every body, and every body responds slightly different. Sometimes it can take 3-4 sessions before we have any true idea of how the body will react to certain stimulates and changes. And similar to exercise again, it is very important to not OVERWORK the tissue.
This is a very common and unknown mistake among very active individuals. We all are aware of how muscle breaks down during exercise and it is during the rest period that is grows, strengthens and heals. Body work is no different. We are (usually) using a heavy enough pressure or tools to create small micro tears, just like when you workout. This is also why many people feel sore or beat up the day after a massage. It is in the resting that the changes in tissue are encouraged to hold and be reinforced. It is also in these in-between days that it becomes most important to do accessory work, active stretching, and some other neurological re-education to truly help the body heal on the right “path."
So, now that we have a basic idea of what to look for when receiving body work lets discuss some common paths.
1. If you have no major injuries, issues, pains, or health problems we suggest a once a month maintenance. This will allow you to build a stronger mind muscle connection so if and when problems do start you will be acutely aware of them in the early stages that they can be addressed and reversed. This also helps to keep the body in a healthy state. You do just enough to keep status quo.
2. If this is you but you have a very sedentary job (desk or driving) we suggest doing 2x a month or 1 massage every 10-14 days. You reap all the benefits mentioned before, plus it will help to stimulate your lymphatic system and increase your blood flow. In turn, this will help to prevent swelling, bloating, as well as help to keep a better and stronger immune system.
3. The next type of individual would be someone who either has an old injury that has residual pain or loss of range of motion. It isn't serious enough to interfere with everyday life, but it is annoying enough that you catch yourself shifting positions to compensate, or sleep funny, or perhaps have trouble sleeping because of the discomfort. If this sounds like you, you will need to start with 3 sessions in a one month span to see:
A) How sore you are after each session and
B) How much improvement do you have after the 3 sessions. Based on how your body responds, and how old the issues are will dictate how often thereafter you should be coming. For most individuals, it winds up being 1x a week for 3 months to reach their goals. For others, it may need to be a bit more aggressive to make it all worth the time money and effort and yield results. At Flexation we offer target massages for those who are tight on time and/or money but still are willing and wanting to put in the effort to heal their body. Just to put things in perspective, if you were a flexation member and came 1x a week for a target massage for 3 months that would cost you right around $400 total; that's less then what most will spend in 3 months on coffee, or even better a weekend out.
4. The next type of individual is going to be a bit more complex to fit into a one size fits all recommendation. This type of person would be one that has had a chronic issue that has not gotten better. It causes pain, interferes with everyday activities and detracts from their fitness and activities. When we have people like this come in we recommend starting with 2 sessions in a week followed by a 3rd session within 1 week thereafter. At that point in time, if there hasn't been any form of relief or sign of tissue change, we would recommend imaging work or refer out to a different profession. As much as massage therapist are healers, we work with muscle and fascial tissue! Our practice is limited, and here at FLexation we care about the client. We want YOU to get better. So if we don't feel it is in our scope of practice, we have spent the better of the last year building a team of professionals we trust to refer you to!
These are again basic guidelines to help direct you and your therapist to communicate and ultimately lead you to the best health of your life!
Some final tips to remember:
If you are unsure or have a lot of questions please feel free to call and discuss your personal goals with body work over the phone, or you can even make a complimentary consultation! Flexation is a studio dedicated to body health. Movement should be experienced by everyone, and pain should not be an accepted lifestyle! Let us help you take the next step towards moving freely!
So let’s break down WHAT the psoas is. First off there is TWO parts; psoas major and psoas minor. FUN fact 60% of people are actually MISSING the psoas minor. It’s a weak flexor of the hip so you can still become an NBA all star without one. The psoas major is typically referred to as the “illopsoas” , as it blends and works with the illacus to be a strong flexor of the thigh at the hip. These two muscles also help to flex our trunk when the femur is fixed; or in a less fancy way to say, it helps up sit up straight when sitting in a chair! Flexion is any motion that decreases the angle between the bones that converge on the joint. So hip flexion would be anytime the hip joint moves closer to the trunk of the body.
So what’s all the buzz about the psoas and why should we care if it’s tight? Let’s look at WHERE the psoas is in the body. It originates in our lower back from our T-12 all the way down to our L5. This area is also referred to as our TL junction, which means thoracic lumbar junction. Our spine is broken down into 5 major sections; cervical (neck), thoracic (the majority of our back/mid back), lumbar (low back), sacral and coccyx (tail bone). Our cervical spine has 7 vertebrae, our thoracic 12, and lumbar has 5 + a fusion of 5 bones that creates 1 referred to as the sacrum, and our coccygeal region which also has 3-5 fused bones. In total we have 24 of what we call presacral vertebrae, which is what allows movement.
So our psoas STARTS from 6 different vertebrae, all in which allow movement, hinging, rotation, and allow us to weight bear without falling over. If we follow the psoas from its start on the transverse processes along the spine, we will find it inserts and connects into what is called our lesser trochanter. Our lesser trochanter is a small protuberance, or “bump” , that sticks out on our femur or thigh bone. This is also where the iliacus inserts and shares the attachment with the psoas; hence why they tend to be grouped together as one functioning muscle.
But what does this actually in the heck mean for us and our motion?! We understand the psoas starts on our spine and finishes on the upper thigh. That’s hard to even envision, but let’s try. Imagine a rubber band cut, so now it is one long stretchy string. Place the start of the rubber band at our TL junction or mid/low back. Now run this down the spine, wrap around your hip, through your legs and then attach it to the top of the thigh bone just under our groin area. THAT is the route of the psoas. Keep that imaginary rubber band attached. Now do some motion; hinge forward, bend side to side. How does the band pull? Is it only affected if you use that side? What happens to it if you move your other side? As one leg hinges and bends and does flexion, that same side spine shortens, which pulls on the other sides’ psoas. It is a constant balancing act! Since we already established the psoas flexes the thigh at the hip, we can now imagine all of the motion that would be; bending forward, walking, bringing the knee towards our chest, squatting, sitting in a chair, and all of the compound motion we can create with these baseline movements. Due to all the movements this muscle can create, it becomes evident that although this is an anterior or front side body muscle, it can be a big culprit of low back pain and even groin pain, which can radiate or travel again, to the low back.
The complexity of the body is endless, and there is so much more to hip flexion then just the psoas, BUT understanding the importance of such an intricate muscle will help us have more awareness in our motion. Establishing healthy and balanced psoas muscles will lead us to better movement and balanced function. It is a muscle that doesn’t just control a motion on one side, but can dictate the balance and control on the other side. It is also important to note, that although doing some active release prior to exercise is beneficial, attempting muscular changes such as deep stretching, massage , foam rolling or other attempts of myofascial release will change proprioception and muscular tension. And because of these changes it can potentially be dangerous to do exercise immediately after, so it is recommended that these more intense approaches are done AFTER exercise or hours prior to.
*Don't forget to check out our Instagram page and youtube channel where you can tune in to therapist Carlos Blain as he brings you tips, tricks and knowledge bombs every Friday!
Master massage therapist, ex-athlete, food lover, dog mom, and knowledge connoisseur, wants to share as much knowledge in a fun easy to read way! Tune in monthly to read her new health and wellness articles. Want to suggest a topic? AWESOME! email her :) Adriana@FlexationMassage.com