I’ve always found lying down on a massage table to be an exceptional experience: For a brief interlude, the world fades away and all that remains is a soothing touch. I count myself to be one of those lucky people who’ve been able to try a number of diverse massage styles over the years. I’ve experienced the traditional techniques of a hammam in Morocco; I’ve been pampered by opulent offerings at a spa on the west coast of Mexico.
Yet as much as I love them, the massages I’ve gotten have always been few and far in between.
So when I heard the founders of Drybar started their own massage business called Squeeze with a location in my hometown, I jumped to book my first appointment. As a yoga teacher with an unpredictable schedule, I’d been searching for a no-frills massage that was easy to book but still promised results. Squeeze seemed like the answer. Through its app and website, the tech-forward franchise allows guests to book, set personalized preferences, pay, and review all in one platform, so you can literally walk in and figuratively float out.
Because booking was at the click of a button, I felt inspired not to try just one, but four massages over the course of a month to explore the advantages of incorporating regular bodywork into my wellness routine. My goal was to not only enjoy a weekly pampering session (in the name of self-care, of course) but to track any noticeable changes in my overall well-being. Here’s what I found the enjoyable, but pricey habit can do for you when you make a point to put it on your calendar on the reg.
How often should you get a massage?
In a 2022 survey by the American Massage Therapy Association, 48 percent of massage consumers received their last massage for health and wellness reasons, such as pain relief or stress management. Experts say massage therapy has minimal risks when performed by a trained practitioner, with certain conditions like pregnancy or kidney disease requiring more precaution. While massage experiences can be pretty hit or miss (if you know, you know), research suggests regular massage therapy can help reduce chronic low back and neck pain and relieve symptoms of depression, among other benefits.
“The frequency of massage varies based on individual factors such as injuries, discomforts, and objectives,” says certified massage therapist Clinton Kyles. If you’re just looking to uphold overall well-being, Kyles suggests a general guideline of one 80-minute massage per month. “If dealing with recent or intense injuries, one 50-minute massage each week for two to three weeks is most beneficial. When addressing chronic or longstanding pain, two 80-minute massages per month are recommended,” he adds.
Just like a certain fitness routine can improve your health, the right massage can yield positive results, but it takes trial and error to find the best fit. “Massage isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of therapy and can take a little getting used to before you find the right therapist and style that works for you,” says Squeeze co-founder and CEO Brittany Driscoll.
Potential effects of weekly massages
Though more research is needed, one 2012 study by Emory University reported that there are lasting effects of repeated massage therapy. Benefits of Swedish massage—characterized by light touch for relaxation—include boosted mood, relieved stress and anxiety, and better sleep. Deep tissue, on the other hand, targets muscle tightness and pain by using more pressure.
“I find massage to be one of the only self-care rituals that allows me to truly unplug and recharge,” Driscoll says. “Massage gets my blood flowing, loosens my muscles, and reduces my body aches. It also reduces my emotional and mental stress.”
What happened when I got weekly massages for a month
Since joining the professional world, massages have become a cherished ritual in my self-care routine. But because they’re on the expensive side, I traditionally go for an hour-long massage only about once every quarter. (According to Thumbtack, the national average cost of a massage is $100 per session, but prices vary significantly.)
I began my weekly massage journey at Squeeze’s Denver location, where a 50-minute massage is $129 without a membership (which would bring it down to $95). Amid the demands of modern life, my back is plagued with muscle knots. The immediate differences in my physical well-being after my first full-body massage were blissful, but expected—less muscle tension, improved circulation, and better digestion. I typically request medium pressure with a classic massage like this, and my favorite side effects have always been the natural glow to my complexion and reduced bloating in my abdomen.
I showed up to my second session completely exhausted from work, and chose a more traditional Swedish massage with lighter pressure to tap into my parasympathetic nervous system. I felt relaxed, but quickly fell into old habits by rushing to other errands after my appointment. It wasn’t until my third week that the mental benefits from calming my nervous system started to kick in. Because I was able to ease into the session more quickly, having become so accustomed to it at this point, the tranquility was palpable. I felt better equipped to manage daily pressures and noticed improved sleep quality throughout the rest of the week.
For my fourth and final visit, I opted for a deep tissue massage with percussion therapy, which uses a heavier hand to break up muscle tissue. I had come straight from a strength-training class and wanted to relax my overworked muscles. In the following days, I noticed I wasn’t as sore from my workout as I usually would be afterwards. And the science adds up: Because massage can reduce muscle swelling, it can make for a faster recovery.
While a massage every week is taxing on the wallet, it was the consistency that allowed my body to relax more seamlessly each cumulative week. I may not be able to afford to keep up this habit all year long, but after this experiment, I can definitely say that you’ll find me on my local massage table whenever possible.
Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
- Rapaport, Mark H., et al. “A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Repeated Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Healthy Individuals: A Study of Mechanisms of Action and Dosage.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2012, doi.org/10.1089/acm.2011.0071.
- Davis, Holly Louisa et al. “Effect of sports massage on performance and recovery: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMJ open sport & exercise medicine vol. 6,1 e000614. 7 May. 2020, doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000614