All good vibes for our next massage

IRMA relaxes after a perfect massage at the Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech
IRMA relaxes after a perfect massage at the Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech

We all love a good spa treatment, and getting the most out of it for long lasting results . What can we do to best prepare for a massage, to allow the effects of the treatment  to linger and to help the organs flush the toxins which have been released? IRMA spoke with Jim Patrick, Lead Massage Therapist at the Mandarin Oriental hotel group in New York City. Follow his tips and you will feel like in heaven for quite some time.

IRMA: How do you best prepare for an effective massage?
Jim Patrick: One of the best things you can do before a massage is make sure that you are well hydrated. While most people know it is important to hydrate after a massage, it can also assist in the effectiveness of bodywork to be well hydrated in the days leading up to your treatment. When you are well hydrated, the connective tissue of the body becomes more supple and open to change. The best way to hydrate is to drink small amounts of water frequently, which allows fluids to be integrated into the body tissues and connective tissue, making them literally more fluid with change.

IRMA: If I went for a detox treatment after a long flight, which herbal tea would you suggest to make water retentions go away and have the massage being most effective?
J.P.: Because caffeinated teas can be very dehydrating, I would suggest staying away from them. From a Chinese Medical perspective, ginger tea is great for supporting the “digestive fire” in the body. Lemon as well as dandelion tea are great natural diuretics too. However, I would only recommend herbal teas for those who had discussed their uses with their doctors.

IRMA: Which oil combinations are best for a detoxing and fluid retention massage?
J.P.: Juniper essential oil is one of the strongest natural diuretics and an excellent oil for stimulating the water metabolism function of the kidneys. Lemon essential oil is also a fantastic astringent and can work to flush fluid retention from the body tissues. Flourish and Reflect are two of Mandarin Oriental’s signature oil blends that have these essential oils. Flourish contains lemon and lemongrass to move the fluids of the body. Reflect has juniper as well as black pepper and ginger, which support the strength of the kidneys. Cypress is another essential oil that stimulates the movement of the lymphatic system, which is one of the key ways to reduce excess water retention. Essential oils are chemically strong and should only be used on the surface of the body or when diluted in some sort of carrier oil. It is never advised to apply pure essential oil to the skin, as many can be corrosive.

IRMA: Do you recommend any supplements before or after the massage?
J.P.: Though it is beyond the scope of practice for us to recommend supplementation, we can suggest salt bath soaks after a massage, which is an excellent follow-up to a session. The best salts to use are Dead Sea salts because they have a high concentration of trace minerals that support the healing of the tissues after massage. Epsom salts are also great because they feature magnesium sulphate, which is a natural muscle relaxant. Magnesium has been found to help people who suffer from anxiety and is good for helping to manage stress. Having a 20 minute warm bath soak with either of these products is an excellent follow-up to a massage either the day of or the following day. Soaking is also a way for your body to absorb some of these necessary trace minerals and elements.

Spa suite at the Mandarin Oriental, New York
Spa suite at the Mandarin Oriental, New York

IRMA: Which foods are good after a massage for fluid retention?
J.P.: Any citrus is good for astringing and releasing excess water from the body, especially lemon and lime. Fresh-squeezed lemon is an effective natural diuretic that is easy to add to your drinking water and also has the added benefit of bringing the body’s chemistry an alkaline state, which is great for reducing any sort of chronic inflammation. It should also be noted that when hydrating, it is best to drink water at room temperature or warm. From a Chinese dietary perspective, iced water is thought to be very counterproductive to the digestive process and is said to cool the digestive fire.

IRMA: If you do not have access to a therapist, which points or body parts should you stimulate for best fluid retention effects?
J.P.: There are a number of acupuncture points that are used for stimulating water metabolism within the body; however, I would recommend leaving body work to an experienced professional because their locations are very specific. That being said, there are certainly activities that are very good for reducing water retention. Swimming allows nearly every muscle in the body to contract, which is what largely stimulates the movement of lymph in the body. Any physical activity like walking, hiking and running will also move the lymph. I would only recommend these activities for those individuals who are medically healthy enough to engage in these kinds of exercise.

IRMA: How often would a full body massage be the most effective to have a smooth, well responding body?
J.P.: Because each body is different, there is no definitive answer that would resonate with every individual. There are a number of variables that impact how often one needs massage therapy, such as your physical activity, the amount of physical and emotional stress in your life, how well you sleep, etc. The health of your diet and digestion are also important factors to consider with regards to how the body tissues respond to the stressors in life and repair themselves. I recommend that you have an awareness of how your body typically responds to massage and how long the benefits lasts. Some may best respond to weekly sessions while others may be better suited for a monthly massage. Again, it will be different for each individual.