I remember my first sort of back rub. High school. Late at night. Sitting in a circle with a group of friends. Unskillfully kneading the shoulders of the person in front while receiving the same. While I remember it being effortful—my ham-fisted technique, or lack thereof, compounded the stress I was carrying in my back and shoulders—I also recognized that this was powerful medicine, indeed.
Decades and many masterful massages later, I have embraced the healing that a skilled massage therapist can deliver with his/her hands and view the self-care of massage as an essential component of good health. What could be better than entrusting the care of your aching muscles to a licensed massage therapist?
I asked local expert and LMT Cristy Hatton to shed some light on massage and its benefits, what muscle soreness is all about, and the practice of foam rolling. Receiving a massage is about allowing yourself the permission to let go and let someone help you ease muscle tension.
Receive. Take care of yourself. Treat your magnificent body to the healing gift of massage. You will get wonderful results through improved performance in your workouts, at the very least.
Feeling my shoulders begging to receive as I write this.
Q&A with Cristy Hatton, Licensed Massage Therapist
Go Well PDX: When should a person consider seeking massage as therapy versus a “feel good” back rub-type thing?
Cristy Hatton, LMT: All types of massage are beneficial. Going into a massage, you should know what you would like to get out of it. You may not have a name for it but give your therapist a description of what you’re looking to achieve and he or she will be able to provide what you are looking for. If you want to be able to turn your mind off, you would likely enjoy a relaxation or Swedish massage. If you want your whole body massaged with the intention of increased circulation but also to have some relaxation, you would likely still enjoy a Swedish massage but you would ask for deep Swedish. Typically, I would refer to this as a circulatory massage because the intention is the turnover of blood and lymph supply in the body. Turnover of circulation moves the depleted blood and lymph from the muscles back into the circulatory and lymphatic systems to be cleaned for future use, creating a void for fresh blood and lymph to come into the muscles for use. This type of massage benefits those who have no injuries to speak of and would perhaps like to keep it that way; it especially benefits people who are physically active.
In my practice, I gravitate toward “treatment massage.” I like to believe that massage can help with any pain you can throw at it. I have a variety of clients that I see with a variety of concerns. Commonly I see people with strains, sprains, tendonitis, whiplash-related injuries, and limited range of motion. These issues come in a variety of degrees on a variety of locations throughout the body. More often than not, if it hurts, massage can help. I very commonly hear: “You probably can’t help this but this also bothers me.” Those are my favorite comments because I probably can help.
Go Well PDX: Should my muscles be sore after a workout?
Cristy: Muscle pain can occur for a variety of reasons. Mostly commonly people experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): the pain and stiffness felt in muscles several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise (via Wikipedia). People should see soreness as a corollary of working out and not as the goal. When looking at soreness as a goal, clients are more likely to push beyond the muscle burn that comes from a hard workout and into the risky realm of injury. If you know the difference, you know when to push a little harder and when to back off. Just because a workout does not make you sore does not mean it wasn’t a good workout. If it concerns you to not be sore, take a gut check in your workout: Are you working as hard as you can toward the goal you are pursuing? If your answer is yes, then feel good about it! When building muscle, the fibers tear and rebuild; this is how you increase both mass and strength. These tears differ from the injury tears that create dysfunctional scar tissue in that they occur in the highly vascular belly of the muscle instead of to the avascular tendons or ligaments, and thereby heal (when given proper nutrition and rest!) much more quickly and without the end result of pain or dysfunction.
Go Well PDX: What is the purpose of foam rolling? Should I foam roll before or after a workout?
Cristy: Foam rolling serves as an excellent self-care tool. I find that rolling has a place both before and after a workout, depending on your needs. Rolling before a workout can help increase blood flow and range of motion to the areas you choose to torture, allowing for enhanced performance on that day’s exercises. Rolling after a workout allows for a similar turnover of blood and lymph as massage, which can increase circulation of fresh nutrients to aid in the healing process. Exercise damages muscles. However, our bodies require exercise to sustain our life vehicle. Taking good care of your muscles before and after a workout repairs the damage exercise creates, allowing you to continuously work as hard as possible toward your goals.
For a remarkable deep tissue healing massage, contact the able, knowledgeable and skilled Cristy Hatton. Your muscles will thank you mightily.
Cristy Hatton, LMT #18825
Me Fitness Studios
4943 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Portland, OR 97211