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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Massage Before Motion : A Good Idea Worth Repeating

Apr 30, 2011 01:44AM ● By Casey McAnn

Anyone preparing to actively enjoy the warm spring days might consider getting a massage before getting physical. Massage can loosen muscles to reduce the chance of injury during exercise, says Laura Barricelli, licensed massage therapist and co-owner of Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, in Cambridge, but one treatment is probably not enough to release accumulated tensions. “Some people might come for a maintenance massage once a month, while others with chronic tension should come once a week, at first,” says Barricelli. “It’s very much like going to the gym, in the sense that it’s cumulative. The more you do it, the healthier your muscles and movements are.”

Barricelli says that those with chronic issues should work with a therapist to monitor the condition and adjust treatments accordingly. “If you’re seeking to change something like chronic upper-back tension because you work at a computer all the time, you need to set a plan with the therapist and see what changes occur over time,” she says. “We can then see how your body is receiving the treatment and whether it’s the right type of massage.”

Sometimes massage therapists will refer clients to other practitioners for a different approach to problems. Barricelli explains that a reflexologist or acupuncturist might work the bottom of the foot to relieve an upper shoulder issue, clearing an energy pathway that begins in the foot. “Whereas a myofascial therapist might release the fascia in the leg to reduce upper-shoulder pain,” she says, “because it’s all part of one network.”

Sollievo co-owner and massage therapist Rose Centola notes that some people experiencing chronic pain will request a “deep” massage, believing that treatments should hurt to be effective. The opposite is true, she says. “The fallacy is that deep work is about pressure, and it’s not,” advises Centola. “It’s about coaxing the body to release when it’s ready, and then you can go deeper.”

An over-aggressive massage can actually damage muscle fiber and defeat the purpose, notes Barricelli. “You end up doing a battle with the muscle, so that the muscle ends up losing, and you haven’t actually achieved anything therapeutically,” she says. “So sometimes, things have to go more slowly.”

Between treatments, Sollievo therapists may recommend Epsom salt baths, targeted stretches and lifestyle changes to keep clients as limber as possible and make the most of their work together.

For more information about services and seminars at Sollievo, call 617-354-3082 or visit