This is one of the most common questions I hear and it doesn't have a simple answer. Other massage therapists may have a different perspective on this based on their therapeutic approach. My answer is based on the techniques I use and what experience has shown me to be best for my clients.
The frequency of massage really varies based on personal preference and reason for receiving bodywork, so I'll address these individually.
If you are healthy and seek massage for general wellness and maintenance rather than treatment, 1-2 times per month is a good rule of thumb. If you are eagerly anticipating your next session more than a few days in advance, you may consider decreasing the time between sessions.
For some people, once a week is regular. For others, once a year feels right. It's important to listen to your own body and honor what feels right for you whether that is a few times per month or a few times per year. If you find yourself feeling long overdue for a massage, then it has been too long since your last session. If you feel that you'd rather have your massage next week because you don't really need it today (or feel overloaded with other treatments), it may be a good idea to increase time between visits.
Chronic Pain Management
People living with chronic pain benefit from more frequent massage visits. If the pain is constant or occurs daily, weekly massage is a good idea until improvements are lasting more than a week. For example, if you have chronic neck and shoulder pain at a 6 out of 10 pain level from sitting at a computer, and the pain level drops to 2-4 out of 10 for 3-4 days after your massage but increases again by day 5 or 6, weekly is a good frequency. If you feel better for up to two weeks, then every two weeks is a good plan. Generally, you want to receive your next session before the previous level of discomfort recurs.
Many people find that after a few weeks of weekly massage, they are ready to decrease to every two weeks and so on until they are at the frequency they prefer. It is possible to decrease your chronic pain without weekly massage for life; but if you really want weekly massage, go for it!
Acute Injury and Post-Surgery Swelling
If you are experiencing a lot of swelling and pain either from an injury, auto-accident or recent surgery, scheduling 2 sessions per week for the first 2-4 weeks is a good plan. In my practice, we would focus on reducing the swelling through lymphatic facilitation, releasing energy blocks and calming the nervous system. The bodywork approach is very gentle and I usually don't do massage at this stage because it is contraindicated and/or unpleasant to receive.
Is there such a thing as too much massage?
The type of bodywork that I do requires processing time and continues to work after the session ends. It is possible for the body to feel overloaded with too much bodywork, so we want to give enough time between sessions for the body to process new information. I don't usually recommend massage more frequently than once per week for this reason, though there are exceptions.
One exception is the Acute Injury treatment plan listed above. Another exception is if you are coming twice in one week for two different approaches, ie: one session for a nurturing massage and the other for energy balancing.
1. Listen to your body
2. Come before you are desperately in need
3. Schedule weekly to make progress in healing
4. Schedule monthly for maintenance
5. Ask your bodywork therapist if you are still unsure.
Determining massage frequency is really about listening to your body's needs in relation to the treatment received. Sometimes you may need weekly treatments, while at other times you may prefer monthly visits. These are just some general guidelines that I have found to be helpful in deciding on when to schedule the next session for my clients.