The many benefits of massage
I am a huge fan of massage — it’s one of the most pleasant things one’s body can experience. It’s safe, effective, and decidedly good for you, with only positive side-effects. Those who know me have probably heard me say that massage is one of the three “musts” for a happy back and optimal musculoskeletal health, along with exercise, of course, and spinal manipulation and bodywork such as chiropractic or osteopathy. I am often surprised how many people I meet who have never had a massage in their life — folks, you have no idea how much you’re missing out!
So, to introduce massage to those of you who would like to give it a go, I interviewed Siobhan Balfour, a massage therapist based in Southampton, about the benefits of massage and what to expect during a session.
BHB: Hi Siobhan, thank you for agreeing to talk to me about massage. Many people see it as more of a luxury, something nice to do for themselves when they have a bit of spare cash. What would you say to someone about the actual benefits of massage?
SB: Mmh, that’s an interesting one because massages do cost money and who has a lot of that these days! But, I believe that a regular massage is worth investing in as part of your wellbeing routine. Just as you would consider doing exercise that you enjoy to keep healthy. The idea of massage is relax tense and loosen tight muscles. It also helps to eliminate toxins and waste from the body. I would definitely recommend considering a massage on a regular basis as, done properly, it will be just as good for your health as fitness or healthy eating. It’s also relaxing and can aid sleep so it is good for the mind and emotional well being.
BHB: How often do you think one should have a massage?
SB: I would say ideally once a month as then you will really see the physical benefits and how relaxing it is for the mind. However, once every couple of months would be ok. Even if you just have one when you feel like, that’s ok too, I feel. I’ve often booked an appointment a few days beforehand when I’ve been feeling tense in a particular area of my body or been experiencing stress and just craving some me time. You need to book the appointment carefully. Don’t book it when you have a lot on or are going into town clubbing in the evening. You won’t feel the benefits and will probably end up with a sore fuzzy head.
BHB: What sort of massage do you specialise in?
SB: Full body massage.
BHB: Can you please tell me what I can expect when coming for a massage to you?
SB: Well, I am mobile with a massage table, so I can perform the massage in the comfort of your home. The most important thing for me is that you feel comfortable and I know that having a massage for the first time can be quite nerve-racking. You can choose your level of modesty and I sit down with you beforehand and talk about which area of your body they have particular muscle tension. I also ask you to fill out a health questionnaire. I then leave the room whilst you take off the necessary amount of clothing and lie under towels. Lighting can be lowered to help relaxation and I have candles and can provide music. I like to ask the client if there is a particular type of music that they like as we don’t all find the same music relaxing.
BHB: That seems very tailored! I like that a lot. What would you recommend I do after you leave?
SB: You will need to keep drinking water regularly to replace fluid that is either lost during the massage or will be last in the next 24 hours (some people find they visit the loo a lot more after a massage). Stay off the alcohol and don’t do anything frantic like tearing around the shops. Try to relax and do something low-key, and you will feel the full benefit of the massage.
BHB: Would you say that massage is good in treatment of water retention?
SB: It could be as it is designed to keep everything that goes into the body moving and going out of the body. I would recommend that anyone who suffers badly from water retention should also see a doctor, but massage can help, as it provides lymphatic drainage and moves away toxins.
BHB: Finally, why did you get into massage yourself? What inspired you to train as a massage therapist?
SB: I have had massages myself for about ten years. I find them one of the most relaxing things to do, apart from yoga! (Laughs) I think that you owe it to yourself to take care of your own body. The more massages I had the more I became interested in what effect they had on my well-being. So, I decided to explore this in a course and learn the techniques so that I could help others to relax and to find a bit of head-space during the hour-long massage.
BHB: Thank you Siobhan!
Siobhan Balfour is a certified massage therapist based in Southampton. To book an appointment with her, email her at also visit her Facebook page “Siobhan Balfour Massage” or call her at 07504 343 184.