When I was in graduate school, during a conversation about self-care my professor recalled this story:
She said that while working at a clinic for severely traumatized individuals her supervisor always seemed to be so calm and relaxed. In awe, she asked her how she did it. The supervisor's response: "I get an hour long massage every week."
"Who could afford that?!?" the group seemingly shouted in unison. The professors conclusion: Weekly massages would be great if any of us could afford them, but since we can't, we need to think of other ways of relaxing.
Amid the giggles, I sat in silence. With a secret.
You see, at that point, I was getting regular massages (usually one every 3-4 weeks). AND it wasn't costing me that much.
We all know that massages are great at making us feel relaxed, but these benefits and more have been well documented. According to the Mayo Clinic, massage therapy has been found to help with symptoms of anxiety, headaches, stress related insomnia, digestive disorders and more.
At that time, I was a full-time student and holding down a full-time job, so I was willing to try anything to reduce my stress. But, I also didn't have much money and spending a ton for an hour of massage was definitely a luxury.
So here are a few ways that I get messages without breaking the bank.
1. Try Reflexology
Reflexology is a form of therapy and massage with origins in ancient Chinese and Egyptian societies. It involves applying pressure to specific parts of the feet, hands, and ears, which are thought to be connected to different body systems and organs. Through the application of pressure, reflexologists believe they can improve the functions and health of these systems.
Studies have supported the positive benefits of reflexology in the areas of stress and anxiety reduction, sleep and depression.
While I have found reflexology to be one of the most relaxing and beneficial forms of massage for me personally, it can also come with financial benefits. When I was living in Boston, I purchased a 6 session package from a local reflexology practice for $135 (that’s $22.50 per hour of reflexology). Single sessions usually run about $35 for an hour. Each session included 30 minutes that focus on my feet and legs and 30 minutes of “full body massage”. The practice was clean and comfortable and I was always pleased with the quality of services. To compare, a one-hour traditional massage in the same area would cost between $50 and $100 for an hour.
If you think this might be right for you, check your local area for reflexology practices and prices. Make sure you read reviews carefully and check that the practice is reputable and compliant with local health codes and regulations.
2. Connect with a Local Massage School
The next way I have gotten low-cost massages is through massage therapy schools. In order to become certified massage therapists, students must take specific classes and complete a certain number of massage hours with real clients.
Many schools offer special nights or events when you can get a massage from the students at a discounted price. While the students are less experience than professional massage therapists, I have generally had positive experiences. Where I live, students at the local therapeutic massage school offer one-hour regular massage sessions for $30 or hot stone and body wrap services for $40.
3. Search for Groupons and Discounts
The last method I have used to get cheaper massages, Groupons, has been the least reliable. If you search Groupons (or LivingSocial or other local coupon services) in your area, you will probably be able to find discounted hourly massages. Usually, these are offered for first-time customers in the hope that you will become a regular customer. From what I’ve seen, the Groupons start at about $35 for a one-hour session.
Be careful with this option and make sure you check out who is offering the coupon ahead of time. Make sure that it is a licensed massage therapist and that the session will take place in a safe place that complies with health and safety regulations. I had one experience with a coupon from a company that was great, but another with an individual that wasn't.
While these options have cut the costs of massages way down, they obviously still cost some money. Decide for yourself whether the benefits are worth the expense in your specific situation. I try to go to a reflexologist once a month and find that I feel the benefits for a while after each session. I feel calmer and notice a difference in my ability to handle stress (not bad for a $25 investment).
Have you tried any of these methods? What other activities do you do to relieve stress? Leave your answers in the comments.