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Ten Tips to Make the Most of Your Massage

So somebody’s given you a gift certificate for a massage. You’ve never experienced one before, and are unsure yet if this is one of those gifts you’re supposed to appreciate because “it’s the thought that counts,” as they say.  You know getting this massage will involve making an appointment and being somewhere at a specific time, which seems like a chore, kind of like a doctor or dentist appointment.  You have a general idea that it will involve lying on a table for anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, and you’re afraid you’ll get bored being still for that long.  Here are ten tips to get the most out of your massage experience.

Tip #1: Get to your appointment on time. New clients often have to fill out paperwork, or some therapists will have you fill out a form online before you arrive.  It’s also good idea to visit the restroom before your appointment.

Once you’ve met your therapist, you’ll have a discussion about what your goals are for the session, and be lead to the treatment room. Maybe you just want to relax, or maybe you have a particular area to address, like low back pain. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or state what you want.

Tip # 2: Tell your massage therapist about your physical issues. Information like “I’m ticklish on my lower back” and “I can’t turn my head to the right” or “My left calf is sensitive to the touch” help the massage therapist plan a strategy for your massage. Be sure to mention recent injuries or surgeries.

Tip# 3: Go commando, or not. Before your therapist leaves the room, your therapist should give you instructions on what to do, which will likely include the statement “Undress  to your level of comfort.” This means you only take off the items of clothing you feel comfortable parting with. Many people take off everything except their underwear, or go completely commando (take off all of their clothes).

California draping policy dictates that certain areas must remain covered by a sheet at all times. The therapist will uncover one body part at a time to work on during the massage so you will never completely be exposed at any time.

Tip #4: Get under the sheet and blanket. Unless you’re wearing all your clothes, you’re required by law to be covered with a sheet or “draped” during your massage. If it’s uncomfortably warm in the room, the therapist can adjust the temperature or remove the blanket over the sheet, and turn off any table warmer.

Tip #5: Don’t worry about primping for your massage therapist. Sometimes female clients apologize for unshaven legs prior to the appointment, but this is unnecessary. Massage therapists, as a general rule, do not judge male/female clients based on their stubble, tans (or lack thereof), their cellulite or abundance of back hair.

Tip #6: It’s okay to catch up on your zzzzz’s. Many clients find they relax and go into a lucid dreaming state, or take a brief power nap, and this is a perfectly acceptable way to enjoy a massage. Not to worry, the massage therapist will not be offended, and you’re still getting the full benefits of the massage if you’re not awake and alert.

Tip #7: You don’t have to assist the massage therapist. Your massage therapist may adjust your limbs or head during the massage in order to stretch or gain better access to muscle groups. It’s okay to settle in to the session and allow the massage therapist do all of the work.  Your only job when receiving a massage is to relax and enjoy.

Tip #8: Communicate with your massage therapist (if you prefer). If your massage therapist finds and works on a tight or knotty spot, sometimes the discomfort involved can actually feel good because your body senses that the pain is helping to resolve a problem.  Many clients refer to this as “A good hurt.” But once said discomfort becomes too intense, speak up. Too much pressure or manipulation can cause a muscle to go into defensive contraction, and this works against solving the problem. Barring issues like this, clients may or may not choose to ask questions or start conversation during the massage, depending on their preferences.  It’s okay to talk during part or all of the session.  Some people like to talk during a session as it helps them to feel more comfortable or relax while others prefer complete silence.

Tip #9: Be realistic. If you have a longstanding physical issue, it may take a longer session or even a series of sessions before you see marked improvement. Issues like low back pain and stiff necks tend to develop over time, and often it takes time to work them out.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had people come in who think I can “fix them” in one session when they have had a recurring pain issue for years!

Tip #10: Drive safely. It’s common to feel mellowed out and spacey after a massage. Take your time getting to your feet off of the table and getting dressed. Most importantly, be extra careful driving home. Sometimes clients plan some relaxing time in a nearby coffee shop or restaurant after the massage and before they get back in the car.

A number of my clients got their first massage without knowing what was in store, and found it to be a learning experience. Many people say things like, “I had no idea I had soreness there” or “I had forgotten what it’s like to be this relaxed,” and they use what they learn during the massage to prolong the benefits of the massage.  Sometimes this means stretching during some part of the day or simply changing how they use desk space at work. Many people decide to make massage a regular part of their lives after their first session.  When I received my first massage over 20 years ago, I knew I was hooked!