Hey Everyone! Tasha here. I find that there seems to be a bit of mystery about the massage environment for the general public. I guess it may be because of the privacy involved in the situation. This can make it a little overwhelming or nerve wracking for someone who is coming in for their first massage ever or for someone getting a massage at a new location they haven't been to before. I thought I might answer a few commonly asked questions to hopefully bring some comfort and guidance to people in those categories.
Q: How do I prepare for a massage?
A: The first thing to consider to be prepared is to know where you will be going! Be aware of how long it will take you to get there and plan to arrive early. Being early will allow you the time to navigate unforeseen traffic issues, fill out any required forms, use the restroom, or rest for a few minutes so you don't begin your session in a rush. In the massage environment, your scheduled appointment time is when you are expected to be available and getting on the table. If you are late, it typically means your hands-on massage time will be a bit shorter.
Second, you may want to consider your hygiene. Some people can stay 'shower fresh' all day and some people can't. That's okay, do your best! The therapist will do their best to have appropriate hygiene to be in your personal space and appreciate the same respect in return.
The third thing to consider would be your beverage choices. Drinking water beforehand and after will help your body do it's job better. Be cautious about caffeine or sugary drinks that may interfere with your experience trying to relax. On that note, I would also recommend using the restroom before your session to feel the most comfortable.
Fourth, know what goals you have for the session and be ready to communicate them. The massage therapist will ask you what you want and will do their best to accommodate that but they cannot read your mind. If you just want to relax, tell them. If you want to focus on one or two areas causing you trouble, tell them. If you want a full body session, tell them. If you want deep pressure, tell them. The more you communicate the closer they will be able to get to your expectation.
Q: Do I take all of my clothes off?
A: Short answer, no one will ever make you undress to a level that makes you uncomfortable!
Long answer, the therapist wants to respect your boundaries and also help you with the goals of your massage. If you say you want back and neck work but leave on a sports bra, they will have to do their best to navigate how to work the muscles well while also not making you feel uncomfortable. If you say you have low back pain and agree to glute or hip work but leave your underwear on, this will limit the options the therapist has to be able to effectively work those areas. If you need your feet worked well but don't remove your socks, you may be disappointed with how the therapist has to navigate the massaging of your feet. The same principle also applies to jewelry, watches, and some hair styles.
While you can absolutely leave on anything and everything that you wish, realize that it may change what the therapist is capable of helping you with for that session.
If you do decide to remove all items of clothing (which is most common), you will be covered with the sheet and blanket on any area that the therapist isn't currently working and genitalia/breast tissue is NEVER uncovered.
Q: Will it hurt?
A: There are actually a few factors that will affect the sensation of your experience receiving a massage. One that is common is miscommunication or lack of proper communication. Maybe you told the massage therapist that you want medium pressure, that is a great place to start the communication. The issue with this is that pressure is subjective! 'Medium' pressure will mean something different to each client and each massage therapist. The therapist will do their best to give you what they believe is medium pressure but you will need to communicate further and let them know if you want more or less pressure to get to the level of pressure that you would like.
Another factor to consider is what you want to achieve with your appointment. Did you just want to relax? It this case the massage should probably not hurt to receive. However, if you want to find relief from pain, like headaches, to be able to help you with that goal the massage therapist may need to work on some tight, stuck, or knotted muscle areas to do that. This may hurt somewhat, but will not harm you in any way and may be worth short term discomfort for the long term benefits.
Finally, a factor that could add to the sensitivity of the massage is the level of health you are at. If you have a chronic amount of muscle tension or inflammation in your body, or a condition such as fibromyalgia, you may be much more sensitive to touch than average. In this case, sometimes even what would typically be considered light pressure may be painful. I would suggest pondering if you want to prioritize comfort or potential results and communicating with the massage therapist during the appointment if you don't feel like you are on the same page at any time. After all, it is your massage and the massage therapist is there to help you.
Hope this helps you get the most out of your massage therapy and the communication of your goals.
Until next time, may you have the highest quality of life possible!
Tasha Ouderkirk, LMT, Business Owner
Nothing on this blog is to substitute for proper medical advice from your doctor and is not intended to diagnose or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified medical physician if you have any questions about a specific diagnosis or disease