What should I expect during my first massage therapy visit?
Your massage therapist may require you to fill out a health history form. Afterward the therapist will begin by asking you general questions to establish what areas you would like worked on, if there are any conditions needing to be addressed, and to determine if massage is appropriate for you. Your massage therapist may perform certain assessments and testing to evaluate your condition and to see if you have any presenting complaints.
It is important to list all health concerns and medications so the therapist can adapt the session to your specific needs without doing any harm. It is also important to list any allergies so the therapist is aware if he/she needs to use a different oil or lotion during the session.
Do I have to be completely undressed?
You should undress to the level you are comfortable. For a full body massage, most get completely undressed. However, if you will be more comfortable during the session if you leave your underwear on, that's fine. The therapist will work around the clothes you left on as best as he/she can. If removing all your clothes makes you too nervous and unable to relax, then you are not getting the optimal benefit from the session.
Your massage therapist should give you privacy to undress and get comfortable on the table.
If you prefer to stay fully clothed, then I recommend you explore the many other types of bodywork that are performed clothed.
Do I have to cover myself with a sheet or towel?
This is known as draping and depends on the therapist and in some cases, the law. The vast majority of therapists will insist on draping. Once you are undressed and on the table under the drape, the therapist will only uncover the part of your body being worked on.
The genitals (women and men) and breasts (women) will not be uncovered. If the therapist is going to work on a woman's abdomen, a second towel or sheet will be used to cover the breasts so the main sheet or towel can be moved to expose the abdomen.
What do I do during a massage treatment?
Make yourself comfortable. If your therapist wants you to adjust your position, she/he will either move you or will ask you to move what is needed. Otherwise, change your position anytime to make yourself more comfortable.
Many people close their eyes and relax completely during a session; others prefer to talk. It's up to you. It is your massage, and whatever feels natural to you is the best way to relax. Do not hesitate to ask questions at any time.
How long will a massage treatment last?
The average full-body massage treatment lasts approximately one hour. A half-hour appointment only allows time for a partial massage session, such as neck and shoulders, back or legs and feet. Many people prefer a 60 to 90-minute session for optimal relaxation. Always allow relaxation time prior to and after the session.
Will the massage hurt?
This depends on the type of massage and the depth of the strokes. A light, relaxing massage that doesn't probe very deep into the muscles, shouldn't hurt. With that being said, there is a 'feels good' hurt and an 'ouch, stop it' hurt. A good massage, even a really deep tissue massage, should always stay in the 'feels good' hurt range.
Pain can be an indication that the muscle is possibly injured or inflamed and pressure should be adjusted. Also, pain can cause you to tighten up and negate the relaxing effects of the massage. The most effective and deepest massage always works with your body's natural response, not against it.
How often should I get a massage?
"Some is better than none."
What does that mean? Well, it varies from person to person. If you are just looking for some occasional relaxation, then a session every 3-6 weeks may be fine for you.
However, if you are looking to address a specific condition, then it is recommended to go more frequently at first and then slowly taper down to a maintenance schedule. Sometimes more frequent 30-minute sessions can be effective until your goals are met and a maintenance schedule is in place.
Frequency of sessions should be discussed with your massage therapist after your treatment when he/she has a better hands-on understanding of your particular muscular issues.
If I want a really deep massage shouldn't I see a male therapist?
The answer is NO. There is a perception that men give deeper massages than women. This is a myth. While some men do give a deeper massage, there are men who prefer to not work so deep. The same holds true for women.
It is a matter of style, training, and therapist preference. Some therapists prefer not to give really deep sessions while others specialize in this area. If you are looking for a deep massage, it is best to simply ask the therapist if she/he does this type of work. And of course, during your session it is perfectly ok to give the therapist feedback if you would like a lighter/deeper pressure. It's your session!
And remember, massage does not have to hurt to be effective.
Can I talk during my session?
Sure, if you'd like to talk go right ahead. The important thing to remember is that this treatment is all about you relaxing and enjoying the experience. Many therapists discourage talking in hopes that you will relax, let your mind float free and enter a state of massage bliss.
In many instances, people may feel more relaxed starting off talking, and as the massage progresses, enter quiet states of relaxation.
The important issue here is that there are times when you need to speak up. If the therapist is doing anything to make you uncomfortable, you should let her/him know immediately. Also, let him/her know if you get too warm or too cold, if the room is too bright, or if the pressure needs to be changed (lighter or deeper). If something is not working for you - speak up! It's OK!
Do I have to listen to whale calls or flutes during my massage?
No. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
While many therapists play slower, quieter, 'new age' type music, you can choose to have different music or no music at all. Studies have shown that music at under 60 beats-per-minute has a calming, relaxing effect on the body and therefore can enhance your experience.
However, while this may be true, any music you like to listen to while you relax can be listened to while you get a massage. If it relaxes you and you enjoy it at home, why wouldn't it do the same during your treatment? Ask your therapist what music he/she has to offer or if it is ok to bring your own from home.
How will I feel after my massage treatment?
Most people feel very relaxed. Some experience a significant decrease or freedom from long-term aches and pains. Many feel a little slowed down for a short period and then notice an increase of energy, heightened awareness and increased productivity which can last for days.
If you received a deep massage, you may be slightly sore the next day - much like a good workout at the gym. Sometimes a hot shower, or a soak in the tub can ease this soreness.
After your session you should increase your water intake a bit. Just a glass or two more than normal is usually fine. This helps keep your body's tissues hydrated and healthy.
How many sessions will I need?
Honestly, its hard to say. Every person is unique and every condition is unique to each person. It may take one session or it may take several. You and your therapist will be able to talk more specifically about this after your first session and he/she has had a chance to evaluate your body's tissues.
When should I not get a massage?
In my opinion there are few conditions which would prevent you from enjoying massage. You should not book a massage if you have a fever, cold/flu, or contagious skin infection. That's it.
There are many other conditions in which your therapist may need to adapt his/her techniques (i.e. arthritis or osteoporosis) or avoid an area completely (i.e. cuts or burns). With some conditions it is a good idea to get an approval from your physician before you receive massage (cancer, certain heart conditions, pregnancy). This doesn't mean you can't get massage. But its always better to err on the side of caution.
Your therapist can advise you about your specific needs.