How often you should get a massage depends on several factors, including your physical and emotional needs; your stress levels; and your budget. You will definitely experience the most health benefits from massage when you get massage regularly. Massage calms the nervous system, improves blood circulation and lymphatic circulation, relieves muscle pain, and helps with pain management in conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, muscle spasms.
If you get a massage once a year, it will be relaxing, but it can't undo a lifetime of muscle tension. Typically, once every week or two is ideal for keeping your muscle tissue pliable and in good shape. If you are in chronic pain or have a special issue to address, you might need to come weekly (or even twice a week) until you feel better.
Once you're feeling good, once a month is the recommended minimum for maintaining the health of your tissue. If you start stretching the massages out too far apart, then your muscles can revert to their old patterns, especially if you come under stress. If you wait too long, you'll have to start all over again to restore their suppleness and pliancy. Listen to your body, but don't wait too long in an effort to save money.
How Much Massage Can You Afford?
Massage could be part of your routine for a relatively low amount, if you look in the right places. Massage Envy Spa, a franchise with 1,100 locations in 49 states, was built on the idea of affordable, no-frills, monthly massage. You can try it out for an introductory price ($55 - $75), and then sign up for a monthly massage ranging from $65 to $85 a month, depending on the market. It's a franchise, and he pricing is determined by the local owner. You also should factor in a 15 to 20% tip. This could be a good option if you have a location near you.
You can also look for an independent practitioner in your area, with his or her own studio. They get to keep they whole amount, so they charge less than a full-service day spa or resort spa. Somewhere between $70 - $90 is normal for private practitioners, and you aren't expected to tip.
Still too high? In cities like New York and Los Angeles, there are $40 Asian massage places where you might all be in one room, with curtains between you. These are typically low on atmosphere and amenities, but you can get a good massage.
If your budget allows for a full spa experience with robes, steam and sauna (and more), you can find plenty of day spas, resort spas and luxury hotel spas willing to serve you, with the price getting progressively more expensive. Once you start getting into two-hour "rituals" and "ceremonies," you're looking at $500+ treatments at the most expensive spas. This is not necessary for the benefit, but for an occasion when you want to splurge on an "experience".
How Much Massage Do You Need?
If you already feel good and regular massage keeps you that way, you probably know what works for you. In times of extra stress, you might want to go a little more frequently. If you suddenly experience a spasm due to stress, try to get in to see the massage therapist as soon as possible, preferably someone who knows your body.
If you are in chronic pain and want to see if massage will help, find a good massage therapist whom you feel comfortable with and whose style you like. Let them know you want to address chronic pain, ask if that is their specialty, and work out a treatment plan. Rolfing, neuromuscular training, deep tissue massage and even gentler modalities like craniosacraltherapy can help with pain relief.
Massage Basics: Full Body Massage Vs Targeted Massage
Retraining Your Body
A lot of pain comes from the habitual ways we move, so ask for help with your posture. A good massage therapist should be able to help you with this, and give you stretches to do at home.
You might also want to look into other modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and movement training such the Feldenkraise method and Alexander Technique. Often finding the right combination -- and the right practitioners -- will help restore you to health.