One of the best ways to improve the massage you receive has nothing to do with your choice of massage therapist. Stretching properly, either before or after massage, can aid in the body’s healing and augment the sense of relief that often follows a massage session.


Many of us stretch without being aware of deciding to, like with a first-thing-in-the-morning cat stretch, or following being seated for a long time, such as on a trip. The body’s desire to find such relief, through lengthening its soft tissues, is innate. But even something so simple can be improved with regular practice and use.


There are two primary types of stretching: “static” stretching or “dynamic” stretching. In static stretching, a stretch is held for at least ten seconds, for a small number of repetitions. It is best performed as a cool-down following athletic activity, a hot bath or shower, or a massage. Dynamic stretching, also known as mobilization stretching, is more like a warm-up activity prior to exertion; it involves an increased number of repetitions, and positions held for shorter periods of time. Both forms may be utilized in practices like yoga.


Massage prior to stretching will help you to improve the flow of blood to the stretched areas, which can aid in the relief of soreness from overexertion. Like massage, stretching lengthens and strengthens muscle fibers, whether they have deteriorated from lack of use are from injury or heavy exertion. Stretching also helps other areas of the body, like the digestive system and joints. Stretching also can release endorphins, which improve mood and energy levels. In essence, the good results started by a massage are increased when you also stretch afterward.


A good rule of thumb in determining how much to stretch is to strive for “just right”: not too much that the stretch is painful, awkward or results in a spasm, and not so gentle that there is no result from the position. To achieve a good stretch, begin by stretching a muscle to the first point of tension. From there, slowly ease into the stretch, just past that initial point of tension. Following repetition, it may be possible to go “deeper” into a stretch.


C.B. Y.

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