In Defense Of The $50 Dollar Massage (Because Cheap Can Still Be Epic)

In Defense Of The $50 Dollar Massage (Because Cheap Can Still Be Epic) Hero Image
Photo: mbg creative

Confucius, Laozi and other classical Chinese philosophers had an eminently pragmatic philosophy, based on deceptively small questions such as: “How are you living your daily life?” These thinkers emphasised that great change only happens when we begin with the mundane and doable. Which brings me nicely to the cheap massage!

Cheap massages have a bad rap. They can't possibly be effective can they? The massage parlor must be grimy. You have to be a masochist or a narcissist to enjoy them. And so it goes. But I have to say, that since moving to New York, no city does no-nonsense, unlocking-your-full-potential treatments that won't break the bank quite like it.

Plus, I've found a plethora of therapists who can play my spine like a xylophone—no mean feat let me tell you—all in a not-so-typical run-of-the-mill (which means not fancy) massage parlor. I'd be so bold as to say that a minimalist, no-frills environment makes it easy to remove oneself from the outside world and connect within. And isn't that what it's all about? To enjoy the present moment?

The thing about tension is that it isn't always physical. Deep sadness can lodge itself firmly in your back; bereavement can manifest itself in a tight chest and a frozen neck. And sometimes, immersing yourself into a tub of Epsom salts, just doesn't cut the mustard. I've always thought that it’s in the small actions through which we conduct ourselves that matter most in transforming ourselves, and the world, for the better.

So, whatever you're problem, there really is a masseur in the city who will be able to rub your cares away. Oh, and if you're not in NYC, fear not! I've included some easy and effective self-massage techniques to tide you over.


So get ready, don your metaphorical white robe, slippers, and forget your woes.

When you can't sit still for more than 30 minutes.

Pure Qi Regimen Spa

While the idea of a "quick massage" might not seem like the most pampering experience, if you spend most of your time at a desk with hunched shoulders it can be a game-changer. Pure Qi's 30-minute full-body massage is the perfect preventative to rock-hard, tension-filled shoulders—I almost didn't want to blow this spot up, but it's the best massage for its price in all of Brooklyn. Ask for the the hot stones if you go that route—pure bliss!

Price: $40 for 30 minutes.

268 Driggs Avenue (at Eckford Street); 718-383-3822.

When you need to let it all out.

Ming Qi Clinic

Do you feel sad and don't know why? If the answer is yes, you might not think that a rub-down is the answer, but you would be wrong. Thirty minutes at the hands of one of Dr. Ming Jin's traditional TCM-trained practitioners will leave you transformed in body and mind. Choose from massage, acupuncture or acupressure—what I like to call the holy trifecta of treatment protocols. Session complete, you feel like you've had three treatments—a lesson in mindfulness, a thorough massage and a bit more inner peace than when you arrived.

Price: $50 dollars for 30 minutes.

161 Madison Avenue (at East 33rd Street).

When you've injured yourself.

Eastside Massage Therapy

For a no frills, yet comforting and restorative rubdown, Eastside more than delivers. Avoiding the “crack and crunch” method of many masseuses, a deep-tissue massage is still therapeutic in strength and specificity: sports doctors often prescribe a course of the brilliant myofascial technique for rehabilitating nagging injuries. You may even wake up like me the next day—feeling that much better—and hellbent on shouting about it from the rooftops.

Price: New clients $50 for 30 minutes (regular $55).

351 East 78th Street (at 1st Avenue); 212-249-2927.

When you're all tied up in knots.

Fishion Herb Center

If you find standard massages too soft, head to Fishion. This is not for the faint-hearted though; indeed the practitioners thumb, finger, palm and elbow acupressure technique may bring a tear to the eye—it did mine. But you are closely monitored so the pressure is never too much and the soft beds make up for the temporary discomfort. You’ll leave feeling a brighter and happier you. Oh, and ask for David—he's a body magic-weaver of note.

Price: Shiatsu and Acupressure, $45 for 60 minutes.

107 Mott Street (between Hester and Canal streets); 212-966-8771.

Self-Massage 101

If you don't have the time or cash for a professional massage, try these three self-massage techniques guaranteed to leave you feeling good and pretty pleased with your nifty handiwork/self-care too.

1. If you're feet are killing you.

The best part about this move is you can do it under your desk! You can use a regular tennis ball, but I love a bit of a spiky sensation like these give you .

Here’s how to do it:

  • While sitting, step on the ball with a bare or socked foot and roll back and forth from heel to toe with firm pressure.
  • If anywhere feels particularly painful or tender, work those knots out by rolling in small circles.
  • If you need more pressure, use the ball standing instead of sitting.

2. If your neck and shoulders hurt.

Anytime I've attempted to give myself a neck or shoulder massage with my hands, I've wound up feeling frustrated and more tense because I can't ever seem to get to where I need to.

Try this instead:

  • Stand with a tennis or spiky ball between the wall and your shoulder.
  • Raise your arm above your head and shift your head from side to side.
  • Experiment with the ball in different positions along your neck and shoulders.

3. If you have a tight jaw that's giving you a tension headache.

Clenching when you’re stressed can give you a headache and a sore jaw. Do this first thing in the morning or whenever you’re feeling fraught.

Here’s how:

  • Using your fingertips, press up under your cheekbones, starting at the apples of your cheeks.
  • Open and close your mouth as you press up into your cheekbones.
  • Do this all the way back to the sides of your ears.
  • Then, press your thumbs under your jawbone and pull your fingertips down the side of your face.
  • Repeat all along your jaw, moving toward your chin.

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