Most people know that massage is a relaxing treatment, and one that can release muscle tension. It is also good therapy for many chronic conditions, can improve athletic performance, lowers blood pressure, and has many other benefits. But there are some things that you can do yourself to get the best massage ever.
Before Your Massage
Please don’t refer to your provider as a masseuse or a masseur. And no matter what type of place you go to, don’t call it a massage parlor. These terms are still commonly associated with “happy endings” and fronts for prostitution. The term massage therapist is what most providers prefer to be called, since they are trained and licensed professionals. Terminology for the location is varied, as massages are frequently done at spas, wellness centers, chiropractic offices, and others.
Make Special Requests at Scheduling
If you have specific things you want in your treatment, please let them know when you schedule. This way, everyone can be prepared and ready for you ahead of time. If you prefer a specific type of massage, for instance, they will usually try to match you to the therapist that is best suited to your needs. If you want to request a specific therapist, if you have a particular physical issue you are trying to resolve with massage, if you like aromatherapy added, etc., let them know when you schedule to avoid confusion or disappointment the day of your treatment.
Schedule Your Workout Before Your Massage
You hit the gym every day? Be sure to do it before your massage, not after. After massage, your muscles are relaxed. When muscles are relaxed after a massage, vigorous exercise can cause injury. It’s best to wait 24 hours after a massage before exercising in order to give muscles time to recover.
Don’t Eat A Big Meal Before a Massage
This might seem obvious, but your body needs time to digest food properly. If you lie flat immediately after eating, it makes it difficult for your digestive tract to do its job. It can also be uncomfortable to lie on a full stomach.
A Hot Bath, Hot Shower or Sauna Is Great Before a Massage
Massages, especially deep tissue work, break down adhesions and realign muscles. To be effective, the muscles must be relaxed, otherwise tight surface muscles prevent the therapist from reaching deeper layers of muscles. Steam and heat prior to your session can get the muscles relaxed and make it quicker and easier to release the tension.
During Your Massage
Be On Time
When you arrive late, you will be stressed out, and you will also shorten your massage time. If there is a customer scheduled immediately after you, the therapist will not be able to extend your time. Make sure that you account for driving time, traffic, and check-in time when you are going to get a massage.
What Do I Wear?
Often when people come in for their first massage, they are nervous about how much they should undress. This is completely up to you. Most people get completely naked, or keep just their panties on. However, there are people that feel more comfortable being fully clothed – this is completely the prerogative of the customer. Obviously clothing impedes certain massage movements, and may affect how effectively the therapist can get to a particular muscle. The comfort of the client is the most important thing, however. The massage therapist will not mind at all, no matter what you choose to do.
Once the intake is complete (completing your health history, talking to the therapist about your massage goals, etc), the therapist will leave the room and allow you to get undressed privately. During your massage, you will be professionally draped the entire time. If there is any point where you feel uncomfortable, let your therapist know.
Wait to Get Undressed
On that note, DO wait until your practitioner has left the room before you begin undressing. Even if you are completely comfortable with your body, you are putting your therapist in an awkward position when they are trying to maintain professionalism. Depending on where you live, there also may be state statues that govern nudity in the room, and you may be crossing a barrier.
Give Your Practitioner Your Whole Health History
People often ask why the massage intake form and the therapist ask so many questions. You may not realize it, but these are all pertinent to avoiding harming you while giving you the proper treatment.
For instance, we need to know about all your allergies. Spas and wellness centers typically choose products for the treatment rooms that are free of most of the common allergens, such as nuts, dairy, or wheat. But people can be allergic to even natural ingredients, and we don’t want you going into anaphylactic shock simply because we didn’t know of your allergy.
Certain modalities can be contraindicated for conditions such as epilepsy, pregnancy, a pacemaker, infectious conditions, or cancer. Your therapist needs to know about these conditions in order to make a decision as to whether the treatment can be performed, whether it can be performed in a modified way (such as with less pressure or without percussive techniques).
It is also important for your therapist to understand any medications you are on. For instance, blood thinners can make you vulnerable to bruising and bleeding during or after massage. Pain medications may dull your senses and leave you unaware if a treatment becomes painful.
Please be honest and tell your therapist all of the health information asked of you.
Clients often apologize for their bodies. “I am sorry I haven’t shaved my legs”, “I didn’t have time to wash my hair this morning”, “I have recently gained weight, so sorry about my hips”. Your therapist is looking at you clinically, and does not care about any of these things. They do not impede your treatment in the slightest.
But what about stomach growling or flatulence? Bodily functions and noises are very common, especially while you are lying prone and someone is moving lymphatic fluid and manipulating muscles. Massage often stimulates the digestive process. These are normal body reactions and nothing that the therapist hasn’t encountered before. Just relax and enjoy your session without worrying what he or she is thinking!
Talk to The Therapist
Your practitioner wants you to have a great session. If something feels uncomfortable, speak up. There are often multiple ways for him or her to achieve the same goal, so if one technique doesn’t feel good, the therapist can switch to another. If you enjoy a particular technique of you want an area worked longer, mention that as well. People often feel that the therapist is the professional and doesn’t need advice. While it is true that they have had training, everyone’s body is different, and only you know how yours feels. The more information your therapist has from you, the better he or she can customer your treatment. Please don’t wait until after your massage to say something.
It Shouldn’t Hurt
Ever hear “no pain, no gain”? That is simply not true with massage! There is a perception that for a massage to be good and for knots to be worked out, it has to be painful. Actually, there are many techniques that can be utilized to break up the adhesion that are not painful at all. If too much pressure is applied, the muscle actually can tense even more, creating more problems. Tell your therapist when you experience pain so that they can assess the right technique and pressure for your particular situation.
After Your Massage
Just like after a workout, massage can dehydrate you. Drink water before and after your massage to help release toxins, and stay hydrated. It can also help alleviate any soreness.
It is perfectly normal to feel some soreness after a massage, or even to feel mild flu-like symptoms after a massage. There are several things you can do to help alleviate some of these symptoms. Continuing to stay hydrated is very important. Ice any muscles that feel particularly sore. Try some light stretching exercises, similar to what you would do post-workout. Yoga can also help. Steaming in a sauna or hot bath can loosen tight muscles.
Regular Massage is the Key
If you decide to get in shape, you can’t go to the gym just once and expect results. The same goes for massage. Massage can be preventative if scheduled regularly. The effects of your massage are cumulative. One is helpful, but regular massages build on one another. If your massages are regular, with enough frequency, the therapist doesn’t have to start over each time. Instead, he or she can build on the results from the prior treatment, and keep you in top physical shape.