When Should I get a massage?
Any time is a good time to get a massage. You don't need to wait until you're stressed or injured. Too often we see clients who wait until they reach this state to see us. Massage works wonders as preventive care for a person's body and mind. A regular massage is a wonderful way to cope with stress, both physical and emotional, and to keep from causing discomfort or harm to your body.
When Should I not get a massage?
There are several contraindications for receiving a massage. If you have any of the following conditions, you should not get a massage:
•Some types of infectious disease
•Fracture, bleeding, burns or other acute injury
•Liver and kidney diseases
•Pregnancy-induced diabetes, toxemia, preeclampsia/eclampsia
•High blood pressure (unless under control with medication)
•Open skin lesions or sores (therapist may work around them if localized)
The guidelines here are pretty straightforward. You don't want the massage to make an underlying medical condition worse, and you don't want to pass anything contagious to the massage therapist. If you're unsure about whether a minor condition should prohibit you from getting a massage, call your therapist before your appointment. If you have a chronic medical condition, check with your doctor before proceeding on a course of massage therapy. For some illnesses, other bodywork modalities may work well. If you're suffering from fibromyalgia, lupus, and other conditions, try to find a bodyworker who has some experience with these, since they should know what works best under certain conditions.
What if I'm embarrassed about my body?
You wouldn't believe how many times we have heard someone say they'd get a massage if they lost weight first or didn't have that cellulite on the back of their thighs. Don't let this stop you. You're denying yourself quite a pleasurable experience.
Massage therapists have seen bodies in every imaginable shape and size, from young to old, and they're not there trying to judge your physique or ogle your body. They're professionals who have found massage to be a wonderful gift to give to men and women alike, regardless of age and weight, and are proud of what they can offer to people in need of help or just wanting to luxuriate in the sense of touch.
What happens during a massage?
When you first arrive at the massage therapist's studio or office, you'll be asked to fill out a client intake form. This will give the therapist the personal information about you that will guide them to give you the style of massage most appropriate for you. Don't hesitate to ask questions about anything which you're unsure, or any concerns you might have. If you're expecting something in particular from the massage, make sure this is told to the therapist. For example, if you've been having a lot of tightness in your right shoulder, and you'd like some extra attention given to it, tell the therapist. If you prefer a lighter or deeper massage, make that preference known. The massage therapist will discover your tight and sore areas during the massage, and will prioritize the time spent on these areas, and may do less work on areas that don't need as much attention. Letting the therapist know ahead of time about these problem areas, lets them prepare to spend some extra time there.
Once you've finished with the intake, the massage therapist will give you some privacy to get undressed and get on the massage table. A drape, either a sheet or towel, should be provided. The therapist should have advised you to start the massage lying on your stomach or on your back. If you're to start on your stomach, there will be a cushioned doughnut-shaped device at one end of the table. This is a face rest, and you should place your face in there. This allows you to be face down, and keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed. If you lay your head on the table and turn it to one side, the muscles in your neck and shoulders won't be in their relaxed state and won't be able to receive the best benefits of the massage.
There may also be a pillow or bolster on the table. A bolster is a padded, cylindrical device. These are to be used for your ankles and knees. If you're lying face down, the pillow or bolster goes under your ankles, so you're not hyperextending your feet while lying that way for an extended period of time. If you're lying on your back, it goes under the knees to prevent any hyperextension of your knee joint.
Once you're undressed and under the drape, the therapist will come back into the room. For the most part, your work is done, and all you have to do is relax and enjoy. The therapist will undrape the section of the body that they will work on first, and apply oil to the skin. They will use a variety of strokes, some rubbing, kneading, vibration, percussion, whatever they think will work best for your muscles. Stretching, rocking, or pressure point work may all be added. If the therapist gives you directions for slow exhales, just follow along. If they stretch or rotate any joint, don't try to help. Just stay as relaxed and limp as you can and let the therapist move that part of your body.
Every therapist has their own style of massage, strokes they like to use on different parts of the body, and prefer to work on different areas of the body in a particular order. One therapist may start you on your stomach and begin the massage with your back. Another may start you on your back and begin with your feet. So for a first visit with any massage therapist, don't be alarmed if their style and direction is different from another therapist you've seen.
When the therapist finishes with one area of the body, they will put the drape back over that part, and undrape the next section to be massaged. At some point, you may be asked to roll over under the drape, and the therapist will continue with the other side of the body. When the massage is over, you'll be left in private to get dressed again. If a towel was used for a drape, you can wipe off any excess oil with it. The therapist will return, and this is a good time to tell them how you feel, if you have any concerns, settle the bill, and make your next appointment.
Do I have to be completely undressed?
You should undress to your comfort level. The massage therapist will work around the clothes left on the best they can. You should realize that this may mean that certain areas of the body may not be massaged at all, or may only receive minimal work there. I suggest to my clients that they be completely undressed under the drape, but they should leave on whatever clothes are necessary for them to be relaxed during the massage. If removing all your clothes makes you too nervous and unable to relax, then receiving a massage that way won't allow you to obtain the optimal benefits from it.
Some therapists will insist that you leave on your panties or underwear. This will be for the therapist's own comfort level, and in some cases is required by law.
Do I have to use a sheet as a drape?
I think the vast majority of therapists will insist on draping. In some cases, it's required by law as it is in Ohio. A drape should be available when you undress. For those of you who would prefer to use the drape, check with your therapist first.
You should never be forced to exceed your own comfort level during the massage. The key to all facets of massage is relaxation, and if the client or the therapist is uncomfortable, the benefits of the massage will be lost.
You should also be aware of your reasons for wanting to be undraped. If it's just a level of comfort with your own nudity, the feeling of freedom unencumbered by the drape, those are valid reasons for preferring an undraped massage. If you want to be undraped to put your genitals on display with the hopes that it will foster a sexual atmosphere in the room, then you're not even approaching the massage experience in the right frame of mind. It's too many people using this latter excuse for not wanting a drape that has most therapists unwilling to allow it.
One more draping issue again concerns a woman's breasts. When a woman is lying on her back, and the therapist is ready to work on her abdominal muscles, lowering the drape to expose the stomach also exposes the breasts. This is easily remedied by providing a second towel to cover the breasts. Many therapists will insist on this second towel to cover the breasts, for either their own comfort level, or to ensure the client's comfort level. Others will offer the option to the woman to use the second towel to cover their breasts and leave the choice up to them.
Can I talk during a massage?
The key to a massage is relaxation and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience. Many therapists will discourage you from talking during the massage. They want you to relax, to just let your mind float free, and let the massage transport you to an almost subconscious bliss. It's not uncommon for many people to be more relaxed talking. After all, they're lying undressed on a table with a stranger touching their skin. Talking makes the therapist become more human and personal to them, and having this interaction makes it easier for them to place their trust in the therapist, and therefore make it easier for them to relax. Many clients talk in the initial stages of a massage, and as the massage progresses, they slip farther into a state of total relaxation and become quiet.
There are times when you should speak up during a massage. If anything makes you uncomfortable, bring it to the therapist's attention. If you're too cold or too hot, the room is too bright and hard on your eyes, or if you prefer the strokes to be deeper or lighter, mention it to the therapist. Bear in mind that some therapists only do a light massage, so they may not go deeper even if you request it. It is just not their style of massage. Feel free to speak up, if something about the massage isn't working for you.
Will a massage hurt?
That depends on the type of massage and the depth of the strokes. A light massage that doesn't probe very deep into muscles shouldn't hurt. At the same time, the light massage won't be able to work out any stress that's deep within those muscles. A muscle that is relaxed will be supple and soft and won't hurt when rubbed. Muscles that are tight, and in many cases have been chronically tight for a long time, may have that "good hurt" feeling with a deeper massage. Think of that "good hurt" as the feeling you get when you stretch a sore muscle during exercise or a yawn. Muscles can be very sore from overuse or tightness, and that good hurt can become painful. A sharp pain may indicate a muscle that has been injured and has some sort of inflammation. In this case, you don't want the deep work to continue in this area. A deep massage with tight muscles may leave some residual soreness the next day.
Everybody has different thresholds of pain. The depth of a stroke may not be deep enough for one person's liking and may cause pain for another. Some people want the massage as deep as possible regardless of the soreness. Others want something much lighter, more sensual and pleasing, to help them relax rather than deeper work that might be sore. So make your preference known to the therapist, and give feedback at any time during a massage that the depth of the strokes is more than you'd like.