Getting a聽massage聽is a pretty amazing way to聽treat yo鈥檚elf after wrapping up聽a major work project or sticking to your workout routine for a few months. But massages can actually be much more beneficial than you think. We talked to massage therapists and physical therapists to get the skinny on why, for a lot of people, massages are a great way to聽maintain overall well-being. Bonus: They gave us some DIY options if you can鈥檛 splurge聽for one聽on the regular.


1. Those knots in your shoulders aren鈥檛 going away on their own. Knots, or adhesions, are incredibly common. You鈥檝e probably felt them in your neck or shoulders聽after a long, stressful day at work. Knots feel聽crunchy, or you might even feel a snap as you run over a super tight area. 鈥淚n a healthy body, muscles glide past each other nicely,鈥 explains Rachel Beider, a licensed massage therapist (LMT). When you overwork a muscle, never use it, get injured, or are stressed out, your muscle fibers can tense up and start to stick together. That ball is not only painful or achy, but can cause chronic pain later, which 鈥渃an create limited movement (stiffness) and pain when the adhesion compresses a nerve.鈥

While a healthy diet, exercise, and stretching can help prevent knots in the first place, once you have a major one, it鈥檚 not going away on its own. But a massage (make sure you鈥檙e going to an LMT) can help. 鈥淵ou shouldn鈥檛 wait until your small nagging pain becomes a much bigger issue to get it checked out. A good deep tissue massage is effective at breaking down knots, will restore your range of motion, and will help you prevent bigger issues and injuries.鈥 Though you鈥檒l also have to do your stretching and strengthening exercises in-between as homework, she notes.

2. You鈥檙e in pain, whether it鈥檚 chronic or from an injury or surgery. Get rid of the idea that massages just feel good in the moment. They actually have the potential to relieve intense pain and help you heal from an injury or surgery faster. Massage therapy, often combined with physical therapy, helps the tissue around the injured area heal better and faster, according to physical therapist Jessica Risk. Risk specializes in manual therapy, focusing on getting rid of knots and using trigger point therapy around the injured area (for example, if someone has knee surgery, she鈥檒l massage the knee and the leg).

Risk also recommends that her patients get a full body massage within two days of their physical therapy appointment. 鈥淎 massage can help the waste products, produced by the cells during their inflammatory healing process, drain better into their lymph system, to then be eliminated.聽This can help decrease swelling and also promote total body circulation, which brings fresh blood and oxygen into the area, promoting healing,鈥 she explains.

3. You work on a computer. You鈥檝e already read a thousand articles about how sitting at a desk is going to kill you. Well, we鈥檙e going to keep writing them until you stop hunching over. 鈥淲e live very sedentary lifestyles, sitting for long periods at work in front of a computer. This causes a whole host of muscle pains and imbalances that can be fixed with regular massage therapy,鈥 physical therapist Liam Champion explains. It鈥檚 not only poor posture and sitting too long at work that can cause pain in your shoulders, neck, and lower back, but stress.

Muscle tension is a very common symptom of stress, and deep relaxation, which many people find during massage sessions, can help treat the emotional root of your pain and relax your tight muscles at the same time. A review of more than 30 studies聽shows that massage therapy reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 31 percent, on average, while boosting serotonin (28 percent) and dopamine (31 percent). Those are pretty convincing numbers.

4.聽You work out more than three times a week.聽If you鈥檙e a serious fitness fanatic, regular massages are necessary for聽many of the same reasons they鈥檙e critical for athletes who need to stay in tip-top shape, according to Nomi Greenman, LMT and聽the official therapist for Precision Sports Performance, a training facility for聽amateur and professional student athletes, as well as adults. Regular massages can help your muscles recover up to 50 percent faster and prevent injury. Most importantly for most of us casual workout aficionados, whose main issue is serious soreness after leg day, massages can help by reducing muscle soreness and fatigue.

5. You鈥檙e pregnant. Prenatal massage is one of the main alternative therapies recommended for pregnant women, and for some super聽compelling reasons. According to Greenman, massage alleviates some common聽discomforts of pregnancy, such as swelling in the hands, feet, and ankles, and sciatic pain. Studies also show that prenatal massages help with insomnia and fatigue by reducing anxiety and depression, which is also good for the baby. Incredibly, 鈥渨omen who received massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labors were on average three hours shorter鈥 than women who didn鈥檛, according to a review of research. Look for an LMT that鈥檚 certified in prenatal massage, and ask about their qualifications聽before you book.


1. Foam Roller: 鈥淔oam rollers are a cheap alternative聽for an expensive deep sports massage,鈥 Champion says. 鈥淚nvesting in decent foam roller may be the best thing you鈥檝e ever done to improve your performance and prevent injuries.鈥 Even if your problem areas aren鈥檛 due to a tough workout, Champion says, 鈥淔oam rolling is a聽must聽if you want to take your health and fitness seriously.鈥

2. Tennis Ball:聽Since bringing your聽foam roller on vacation isn鈥檛 exactly practical (we would if we could), Risk recommends packing a 鈥榯rigger point ball.鈥 鈥淭here are a few that are made and marketed specifically for 鈥榯rigger point release鈥 that I use, but if someone needs something quick, a regular tennis ball will do the trick. It鈥檚 cheap and very easy to travel with,鈥 she says.

3. Movement Therapy: While breaking down scar tissue and rolling out knots is helpful, 鈥済entle and slow movements can actually be more effective, as the body doesn鈥檛 fight back and the nervous system begins to understand what you are asking for,鈥 according to Tracey Silber, LMT. 鈥淟earning gentle movements can help relieve both physical and mental pain with very little effort,鈥 she says. Check out local yoga studios and keep an eye out for MELT Method classes or teachers trained in somatic therapy.

How do you deal with tense muscles from strength training or sitting at a desk? Tweet us your tricks @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)