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The Ultimate Relaxation Combo: Massage and Sauna

by Max
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The Ultimate Relaxation Combo - Massage and Sauna

While it may be obvious to some sauna users, the combination of a massage and sauna trip is one of the best ways to relax your body both externally and internally. While some sauna users may have easy access to a massage simply because they sauna at a spa or workout complex, even those who have to seek it out ought to find a way to pair their sauna trips with a massage. The two activities, massages and trips to the sauna, are actually tied on a level that few may guess. There are some genuine benefits to pairing the two activities and depending on why you already use the sauna, you may find that massages help you get even more out of your soak.

Benefits of Getting a Massage with Your Sauna

There are several key benefits to getting a massage around the same time you use the sauna. And many of the existing benefits of sauna use become even more restorative with the help of a good massage.

Muscle Health

Massages are a great way to smooth out sore muscles after a workout, and of course, saunas are also a great means to reach that same goal. While the kneading and pressing of a massage can manually get the blood going to your muscles, the heat of the sauna also helps reach that same goal. Especially for those who use the sauna after a workout, you may be even less sore if you pair your post-workout sauna trip with a massage.

When we work out our body, we put our muscles under strain and displace the mature red blood cells that settle during the times that we aren’t working out. The quick displacement of those mature cells is usually the main cause of soreness.

As the body quickly displaces those cells that would prefer to be rooted, the body has to work harder to fill back in those spaces. If the body doesn’t fill those old spaces quickly enough, this is usually why we feel sore after a hard workout; we’ve displaced mature red blood cells that aren’t used to moving. So, then, the best way to get your blood moving after a workout is to stimulate the affected areas. Naturally, massages are one of the best ways to positively affect an area that may become sore. But an even more effective way to get the blood moving is by taking regular saunas.

The heat of the sauna naturally makes our heart rate go up. And as we get hotter, our body works harder to keep our body cool. The body does this by increasing blood flow; this is also incredibly good for your muscle health and holding off soreness.

By getting a massage around the same time you take a sauna, you are aiding your body’s ability to move your blood to the areas it is needed most, both holding off soreness and preserving muscle health.

Mental Health

When it comes to relaxation, there are few activities held in higher regard than massages and saunas. Sure, both saunas and massages feel great. But there is actually much more going on behind both saunas and massages that are genuinely beneficial to your overall mental health. And by taking a sauna around the same time you get a massage, the existing positive effects of both could pretty much compound.

First, saunas are scientifically proven to heighten peoples’ well-being. Several studies of dry heat saunas, usually traditional wood-burning saunas have found that repeated exposure to the heat of saunas can lead to better overall mood and attitude. The clearest reason why our bodies and minds positively respond to the sauna has to do with the body’s sense of homeostasis.

When you are sitting in a perfectly ordinary environment and don’t feel uncomfortable, it’s likely your body is doing only its most basic functions to keep your body at homeostasis, or the best conditions for your wellbeing. But when you are exposed to high heat like in a sauna, the body instantly starts working in order to cool down your internal systems.

As your body continues to maintain a safe temperature inside your body, this is your body working to maintain homeostasis. When the body successfully stays in the right conditions of homeostasis when tested, the brain will release positive signals. This is similar to the moments after a sweaty workout. So each time you use the sauna and avoid dehydration or any kind of discomfort from the heat, you are positively affecting your body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and increase your well-being.

Saunas and Massages for Overall Well-Being

And let’s get down to it: you already know that massages are good for your well-being. Massages are key for reducing stress and tension in a physical way that ends up affecting our mental health all the same. Clearing out knots in our muscles and massaging those places with resting tension like the shoulders or neck can help us ease out our bodies in ways that wouldn’t be immediately apparent.

When we have tight muscles or other quiet discomforts, those discomforts may not be super visible to us, but our subconscious carries those mild pains and eventually translates them into bad moods and an overall negative attitude. Massages and other muscle-relaxing exercises are, then, key to restoring our mental health. It only goes to show, then, that the physical restoration of massages and the mental restoration that happens inside a hot sauna are the perfect pairings for relaxation and heightened mental health.

Sauna and Massage Best Practices

When trying to tie together getting a massage and taking a sauna, there are several best practices to keep in mind.

What Should Go First: Massage or Sauna?

Luckily, there is no way to go wrong when choosing whether to take a sauna or have a massage first. The benefits of both the massage and sauna are boosted by being done at similar times but you don’t risk losing out on certain benefits by taking one before the other.

There, however, may be a preferred order if you are planning on taking your sauna and massage after working out.

There are several workout experts who believe that taking a sauna directly after your workout, or as close as possible, can tangibly increase the value of your workout. This is because if your heart rate is already up from working out, the sauna will help you keep that higher-than-average rate going. Be certain, however, to both drink enough water and take a shower before taking a post-workout sauna.

After your sauna, moving right along to a relaxing massage can be especially easy if you take saunas at a spa facility. Pairing saunas with massages is increasingly common. If this is the case for you, consider asking experts at your spa what order makes sense for your facility.

But at the root of the decision lies your own comfort. If you like getting your massage before the sauna, that’s fine! And if you prefer the opposite, there is no problem with that either. The biggest benefit of taking a sauna with a massage close in line is your own ultimate relaxation. Part of that relaxation ought to be from following your chosen preference.

Try Getting a Massage in the Sauna

The question of which goes first, the sauna or the massage can be wholly skipped if you are lucky enough to try getting a massage in the sauna. If you are planning on trying a massage in the sauna, there are a few things you should consider ahead of time.

First, the most reasonable way to get this done is to ask a trusted friend to act as your masseuse. In short, don’t ask spa staff to perform actions that may be against their own rules. There are more than a few reasons why spa staff may not offer sauna-based massages. Namely, it is unsafe for a masseuse to stay in the sauna for longer than 20 minutes. With this in mind, only those with private saunas and willing parties will likely be able to try a massage in the sauna.

Be careful, also, if bringing a massage bed into a sauna. Many massage beds are made out of soft oil-proof plastic which is not necessarily resistant to the heat of a sauna. Consider, then, simply lying on the bench of the sauna if that is comfortable for you.

Be keenly aware, also, of the comfort of the person giving you the massage. Giving a hearty massage is meaningful exercise and can easily lead to overexertion, especially in a hot sauna.

But a key thing to remember about massages in saunas is that they are by no means necessary to get all of the benefits that come from both saunas and massages. Even if the two activities are spaced out by as much as an hour, you can still take full advantage of the physical and mental gains that are inherent to massages and the sauna.

Take a Shower If Your Massage Comes Before the Sauna

If you plan on taking a massage before you get into the sauna, there is a good chance that you’ll need a shower. Even if you took a shower before starting your massage, there are several lotions and oils common to massages that aren’t wise to bring into the sauna. There are some who believe that since most massage oils are bio or organic that this means they are functionally similar to the sweat that our bodies give off in the sauna but this certainly isn’t true.

The lotions and oils that we use in massages actually hold bacteria quite well. And further, if that oil residually sits on the bench in a sauna for a number of hours, that surface will become wrought with germs. It may be a chore, but taking these several showers is both key for your health and the baseline of courtesy if you use public sauna facilities. Also, be certain to look into your club’s dress code when it comes to sauna use as well as massage use as the two very likely are a bit different.

Frequently Asked Questions About Saunas and Massages

Depending on your plans for using the sauna and getting a massage, it’s more than possible you may still have more questions.

Is It the Same to Use a Sauna or Steam Room with a Massage?

Depending on where you get your massage, there may be many people who recommend you pair your massage with a steam room visit. Some bathhouses like Turkish Hammam and Korean Jjimjilbang actually expect you to pair your steam room visit with a massage. Traditional Finnish sauna use doesn’t have any long-standing connection to massages but the benefits are clearly there. The question then is: are there any benefits to using a steam room over a sauna? Luckily, both saunas and steam rooms lead to the same overall relaxation benefits both on a physical and mental level.

As it stands, the fitness community is largely torn about whether dry heat or wet heat leads to a quicker reduction in soreness.

But at the root of the argument is the fact that both traditional wood-burning saunas and wet-heat steam rooms are good for your muscle health. Further, your body certainly still has to engage the same homeostasis-maintaining systems while using a steam room all the same as a sauna.

No matter if you have access to a steam room or a traditional wood-burning sauna, you can be certain that you’ll enjoy your combo massage and sauna visit equally well.

Are Infrared Saunas Good with Massages?

Infrared saunas are indeed very good for massages. Being that infrared saunas heat the body in a functionally similar way to traditional Finnish-style wood-burning saunas, you can expect the same huge health benefits that are tied to classic saunas. Infrared saunas, despite technically giving off radiation, are treated by the body in a functionally similar way to old-school wood-burning saunas powered by a stove. So no need to worry about missing out on key benefits.

The question is: is your infrared sauna in a good location to get a professional massage? While massages from friends are great in their own way, it is doubly helpful for muscle health and relaxation to have a real professional kneed into you.

Many infrared saunas are built in homes and this means that unless you’re already buddies with a masseuse making house calls, you may have to get creative about the timing of your infrared sauna visit. Or, maybe you are lucky enough to have access to an infrared sauna at a spa or sports club. There are an increasing number of sports clubs in North America and Europe adding infrared saunas to their list of amenities, so it may be worth looking into your local options.

What Parts of the Body Benefit Most from a Sauna and Massage Combo?

The easy answer to this question is that the parts of the body that are the sorest are usually the ones that will benefit most from the sauna and massage. But there is obviously more to it than that. If you are someone with a lot of foot pain and who regularly seeks out foot massages for that reason, you may find that using saunas won’t make a major gain to your foot massage experience, but rather that the sauna will heighten your overall mood and thus, still make your feet feel better.

Major muscle groups like those in the back, shoulders, neck, and arms, however, have the most to gain from pairing a sauna with a massage simply because they are the largest muscle groups and they are also easy to focus on in a massage. Essentially, any place that is prone to soreness has the potential to benefit from pairing your trip to the sauna with a good massage.

Conclusions on Massages and Saunas

The verdict is simple: if you can easily get a massage around the same time you take your saunas, certainly do it. Massages and saunas both get at the root of the body’s ability to relax in a physical and mental way that when combined are truly the ultimate in relaxation. Because saunas are already incredibly healthy for the body and mind, the further muscle-relaxing qualities of massages are a natural match for the body’s ultimate relaxation potential. The most important thing about saunas and massages, however, is not getting bogged down by the details.

There truly aren’t strict rules about the order of the two actions or even how far apart they have to be. It’s then up to you to make a regimen that works for you. Your chosen method of pairing a sauna with a massage ought to be as stress-free as possible; there are no rules besides relaxing and you’re the best candidate to find out what works for you.

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