Until recently, your massage therapist relied upon her or his experience to give you guidance. I’ve usually been reluctant to recommend that clients with come more than once a week, no matter what their issue, partly because of the expense, yet experience has taught me that an issue like neck pain and stiffness will resolve more quickly with more frequent treatments. In fact, I have found that waiting more than a week between massages lets the tissues return to their former state and that a whole host of conditions resolve better with work done twice a week. Certainly, when I had my auto accident, it seemed like I needed massage at least twice, if not three times, a week in order to improve.
New research backs up my experience. A paper published in the most recent issue of the Annals of Family Medicine found that the effective dose for chronic neck pain is two 60 minute massages twice a week for four weeks, with three times a week proving even more effective.* Thirty minute massages at three times a week were no more effective than no massage.
The take-home message here is three-fold. First, when your massage therapist recommends more treatment you probably really need it. You have a better chance of improving if you follow her/his advice. Second, more massage is better, at least up to a point. Third, this is great information for your therapist; if you’re dealing with chronic neck pain, you might take the initiative and suggest a full hour two to three times a week. You can cite this study if you encounter resistance.
If neck pain is not your issue, guidance on how often is still fuzzy, since this is one of the first studies to look at dosing for massage (meaning how much, how often), although the authors cite a study which found osteoarthritis does better with weekly to twice weekly massage of 60 minutes duration rather than 30 minutes duration or what they call usual care. However, if this is how it works for necks, why wouldn’t more be better for low backs, hamstrings, etc?
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