by Caitlin Couture, LMT and Heidi Weiss, MPH

Movement and massage are powerful forms of stress-relief, and can assist with both physical and mental release. But how do you know when to use movement as a form of release and when to use manual therapies like massage?


Sure, there are times when it is obvious  – your neck is killing you so you can’t turn your head, let alone do your workout, or your stress is off the charts to the point that you don’t want to even think about it – but aside from these times, have you ever wondered how to know that you are due for a massage?

As providers of massage and Pilates, we have a unique perspective on how your body sends more subtle signals it could use some love in the form of hands-on therapy. Here are a few signs we have recognized:

    1. Baseline Muscular Tension: In Pilates, we like to be able to identify where the work or engagement is happening on specific exercises so that we know we are working the areas we are aiming to strengthen. When you can’t tell whether your muscles are engaged or not because the level of tension you are carrying is high enough that the area in question already feels taut, you would benefit from some manual tension-release in the form of a massage.


    1. Range of Movement: One of our tenets is that there is no bad movement – only movement that is or is not suited to a particular aim you are trying to achieve. So we have nothing against them if our shoulders want to rise to our ears! But when they cannot come back down, or you can’t manage to turn around to grab something out of the back seat of your car…… it may be time for some manual therapy!


    1. Static Flexibility: If you have been stretching for a long time, but your flexibility has not improved, that can be a sign of fascial tension. This means that merely stretching the muscles may not change the patterns until a deeper fascial (or even energetic) release occurs. For more information on myofascial release, see our article here. 


    1. Pain: Pain presents in a myriad of ways in our physical and subtle bodies, and can be anywhere on the spectrum of acute to chronic. Depending on the root cause, massage can be an excellent way to alleviate pain via manual therapies such as traditional Swedish and myofascial release techniques. Energetic work such as Reiki, polarity therapy, craniosacral, or Chakra clearing can also be very powerful.


    1. You are feeling “off” or “disconnected”. Yes, we all have those days (and months)! Massage can bring you home to your body and help you re-ground into your radiant and worthy self.

Interestingly, the movement and manual therapy sides of tension release can help to assist each other. While we wouldn’t recommend getting a massage right before a workout, regular bodywork will assist your physical fitness in ways that might surprise you.


Caitlin is open for bookings for massage and energy work on Tuesdays and Fridays, as well one Saturday monthly. If you are looking for massage in Portland, Oregon, you can schedule with her here.