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New clients often ask if I have any idea how long it will take to fix their problem and/or relieve their pain. I’m afraid my answer disappoints many of them, at least at first. I tell them, “It depends.”
The Answer to Every Question
When I was in massage school, one of my instructors was fond of saying, “The answer to every question is ‘it depends’.” At first, I rolled my eyes. I mean, I came from a science background where there were definitive answers to every question, even if we didn’t know those answers yet. But when it comes to humans, all that goes out the window.
So, the answer to, “How many massages will it take to get me feeling better?” really is, “It depends.”
if you do your “homework”
how faithfully you do your homework – do you do it perfectly the first day or two and then start to slack off on subsequent days, do you do it every day without fail, or something in between
if you regularly push your body past its limits
if you’re primarily sedentary
If you insist on not giving yourself ample recovery time after injury
if you (subconsciously) get some sort of reward for having pain, like coworkers or family helping you in ways they never did before… or just helping period if they never did that before (Before you jump down my throat, I’m not saying this is the case with everyone, but this does happen sometimes. Hell, it happened to me twice… Until I found a way to ask for the help I needed before I was in pain.)
if your pain is chronic or acute
how severe your problem/pain is
how long you’ve had your problem/pain
if central sensitization has set in (meaning the entire nervous system has become involved and overly sensitive)
how much stress you’ve had in the past
how much stress you currently have
how much of your stress actually registers as stress (or if you’re so used to it that it seems normal)
how well you handle or manage your stress
how your body responds to the type(s) of massage your therapist does
the skill level of the massage therapist in regards to your problem
the knowledge level of the massage therapist in regards to your problem
how well your therapist’s style of giving massage matches your style of receiving massage – does your body tense up under their intense pressure, feel a bit irritated with their lack of pressure, or melt under their perfect pressure
how long it takes to either find the right technique or to exhaust the techniques in the therapist’s toolbox if s/he doesn’t find the magic one in the first couple session
how amenable your problem is to being resolved by massage – diabetic neuropathy is one pain that immediately comes to mind as not being amenable
how well you understand (or your therapist can explain) that pain is not a linear thing
As you can see, there are a LOT of things that can influence the success or effectiveness of massage for your problem/pain. Some people will have nearly miraculous results for their issue after only 1 or 2 massages, while another person with the same problem may need several months of regular treatment to get half the results. At the beginning (or even the end) of your first session with a new therapist, it’s difficult to tell how long it might take. Once you’ve returned for your second session and your therapist has the opportunity to assess how well (or not) you responded to the last massage, it becomes easier to determine a probable timeline.
I know it’s frustrating to hear “it depends,” but I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I’d also love for you to share this… you know the drill… sharing buttons are conveniently located right below the post.
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