There are many reasons a person may choose to receive massage. Many people come in when they have pain. If you are coming in for pain, there are further questions to ask. First of all, have you sustained an injury, or does the pain seem to be due more to posture or stress?
If you have injured yourself, it is generally best to wait at least 72 hours before receiving massage so that your body has a chance to do its initial healing. We don't want to interfere with the body's natural healing mechanisms. Bodywork too soon after a musculoskeletal injury can actually make it worse, not better. Once it has been a few days, and the inflammation has gone down, it is much more effective to receive massage therapy as a form of rehabilitation. If injury is the reason for your visit, frequency can depend on where the injury was, and how severe it was. Talk to your massage therapist ahead of time and explain your circumstances to get a better idea of a time frame for treatment.
If you have musculoskeletal pain that isn't due to an injury, it may be due to stress or postural imbalances. This type of pain is different than the type you would feel with an injury. Usually it develops over time and feels better or worse depending on your stress and activity levels. Pain due to stress or posture is definitely something that we can work with, but it may take a little more work on your part. When we have pain that is caused by habits like poor posture or a stressful lifestyle, it isn't going to be very effective to just treat the symptom (pain). You will need to make some modifications to your life in order to support the long term change you are trying to make. If you begin to practice good self care, you will likely notice that you can go longer between sessions without being in pain.
Sometimes people are coming in as a part of their treatment plan for an illness or disorder. The frequency at which you receive massage may vary greatly based on your circumstances. What is the pathology? What other treatments are you receiving? Massage can be a great addition to a care plan for many different types of pathologies, but different frequencies may be necessary for different disorders. Some medical treatments can greatly affect when you should and should not come in for a massage, so the frequency of your treatment may depend on the effects of medications or procedures that you are undergoing. However, massage can greatly help by reducing stress and improving your health outside of the pathology itself, which can lead to better tolerance for medical procedures and therapies. If you are undergoing procedures like surgeries, massage therapists trained in scar tissue therapy, can also greatly help your healing process. Talk to your massage therapist to find out their recommendations and also consult your doctor. For more serious pathologies, your massage therapist may require a doctor's release and may want to discuss your treatment with your doctor before your session.
I have many clients who like to use massage therapy as part of their preventative care plan. Rather than wait to come in until they are sick or in pain, they use massage as a means to stay healthy and prevent those things from happening in the first place. A huge part of remaining healthy is decreasing your stress levels and relaxing, so even if you like to get massage because it is relaxing, we consider that a wellness massage. Timing for wellness massage can vary based on all three of these questions. I have clients who come in once a week, every other week, once a month, etc. I generally say that a good rule of thumb is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. When you start feeling less well over all, it is time for a massage. Try to schedule your massages at intervals designed to avoid getting to that place.
What is your budget?
I know that this can seem like a very personal question, but most of us are on some kind of budget. If it is going to be a hardship to try and make a massage fit into your budget at any given time, that is ok. Try figuring out what frequency of visits your budget will allow and go from there. You can also look for therapists who work on a sliding scale, offer discounts or deals, or payment plans. Many therapists also offer a slight discount if you buy a series. Many therapists will work with you to find a way to include massage in your life without putting too much of a strain on your wallet.
Time management can be tricky for a lot of us. Just because you can afford to come in once a week doesn't necessarily mean that you will be able to schedule once a week. Try to find a therapist whose hours fit your schedule, and also remember to make yourself a priority. Sometimes that means giving up an hour here and there to take care of yourself, but it is well worth it, and will make so many more things in your life easier.
After asking how often they should get a massage, many clients follow up by asking me how often I get massage. I used to be very bad about not practicing what I preach. I used to be one of those people who went in for a massage once or twice a year, and I was always in pain. I decided to make more of an effort to take care of myself, and now I go in for one table massage and one shiatsu session once a month each. I generally schedule them about 2 weeks apart from each other. That frequency fits my time, budget, and health needs, but may not work for yours. By answering the questions above, you should get a better idea of what your own massage needs are.