From timing and tips, to talking and—er, tooting, a massage therapist answers your questions.
There’s no question that regular massage can benefit most everyone. Studies have shown massage can increase flexibility and circulation, help with sleep and anxiety, speed recovery and prevent injury, just to mention a few of the benefits. But the massage itself still poses questions, some too awkward to ask, especially for those inexperienced with receiving professional massages. Is a massage supposed to be this painful? When is the best time to schedule a massage? Should I wear underwear? What happens if I fart?
Here we will attempt to answer some of the most common questions about massage that we are asked:
What is the difference between a massage for relaxation, a deep tissue/sport massage and sessions like Acupressure or Reiki?
A relaxation massage tends to be more superficial, non-specific, connective and flowing. At most it will work the surface muscles and connective tissue and is usually light to medium in pressure. The 6 basic Swedish Massage techniques are the cornerstone of what to expect when receiving this type of massage. A Deep Tissue/Sports Massage, on the other hand, goes deeper into the muscles and connective tissue, can be more vigorous, and involves the use of multiple modalities, which still can include relaxing Swedish-type massage techniques. This type of massage can be more stimulating and at times needs to match the intensity of the person’s athletic ability. If it is being done for sport-specific reasons, it should be added as part of an athlete’s regular training schedule. If it is being done for chronic pain and body restructuring reasons, it should be added as part of your self health care regimen. The other type of non massage bodywork sessions are more around being able to receive bodywork without the need for the use of oils or lotions, or the need to undress. Some, like Reiki or Breema, are very gentle and more energetic in their approach. Others, like the more advanced Breema and Shaistu/Acupressure, can be more hands on and active with stretching and movement.
The pressure isn’t deep enough, but I don’t want to insult my massage therapist. What should I do?
Communication between client and therapist is essential to provide the best therapeutic massage possible. A professional massage therapist should not be offended by a client who asks them for adjustments to the work being done, such a more or less pressure, moving a little left or right, the need for more support under the knees, the need for more of less heat to an area, ect. If they do get offended, then please let the spa know of your issue.
Is there such a thing as too much pressure, or should I take as much as I can stand?
Yes. A therapeutic massage can at times be intense, but, it should never be painful. A painful massage is counterproductive and can, in fact, sometimes be injurious to your body. If you find yourself flinching during a session, or you can not breathe long and even breathes into the work, then you know the work being done is too deep and intense for your body. A skilled therapist can always find another way to approach your session.
What should I do if I get ticklish during a massage?
Being ticklish is a common concern people come in with. Communicate with your therapist. The therapist will adjust their touch/technique to help diminish the sensation, or if that does not work, we can aviod the area.
Why do I sometimes get a headache after a massage?
While uncommon, massage does effect vascular circulation which for some could elcit a headache. Also, excessive pressure on the sinus cavity from being face down in the face rest could bring on a headache. Anytime you feel excessive congestion, which is quite common, turn your head to the side to help you breathe. Communicate with your therapist if your face rest is uncomfortable because it’s angled too low or too high.
Is it normal to bruise once in a while after a session?
No, not from relaxation or even a sport maintenance massage. If the treatment consists of structural integration techniques, and releasing of bound fascia and scar tissue, then yes, bruising may occur due to the intensity of this type of work.
Does it make a massage more effective if I don’t wear underwear (or do wear underwear)?
We always maintain proper draping throughout your session, uncovering only the areas being worked on. Being completely undressed can allow the therapist to address all areas of tissue without the need of working through the sheet. This does not make the massage more effective, however. A professional, knowledgeable massage therapist can work through clothing or sheets and still be effective. If the client is more comfortable wearing underwear, then they should, as this will help them relax on the table and not worry about being exposed. If you are going to receive a lot of your session in the side lying position, such as a pre-natal massage, then wearing underpants can allow the massage therapist to be unencumbered by extra sheet tucking while draping. If you are receiving more intensive sports massage and bodywork, where there is going to be extensive stretching and movement, then wearing underwear and sports bras might be recommended. With floor based bodywork, loose comfortable clothing, without thick seams, that can stretch and move with your body, is recommended. If you are unsure about what to wear, feel free to communicate with your therapist prior to the session to determine what you should wear to meet your needs and wants.
I farted during a massage. I was so embarrassed, but I pretended like nothing happened. Should I have said something?
An “excuse me” would be nice! Even so, it is not necessary. It is a natural body function and nothing to worry about. The last time this happened, I asked my client, “what else did you have with your broccoli last night?” We both laughed! In the massage world, this is called “a release.” It’s going to happen. And yes, there may be giggles. Most often we ignore it and move on.
Sometimes I fall asleep on the table. Does that make things difficult for the therapist?
No, not at all! As a matter of fact, it can be construed as an act of trust. When your client is so comfortable and trusting of you, they fall asleep on the table, this is considered a huge compliment – they have completely given themselves to their therapist. A client who talks during their entire massage session is not reaping the rewards of the complete healing process the therapist is attempting to provide. As far as the athlete, they can often be injured and/or completely stressed out due to a rigorous training schedule. Sometimes the athlete needs a break from therapeutic work and receive a relaxing put-me-to-sleep massage.
I like my massage therapist, but she’s very chatty. How do I let her know I’d rather not talk?
Communicate with them. Let them know you prefer a quiet session. Let the therapist know you are not trying to be rude by not answering or engaging in their conversation, you just want to completely be in the moment of your therapy session. Your therapist will understand, and if they don’t, find another therapist.
I’ve never had a massage before. Should I let the therapist know?
Yes. It is very important you let your therapist know you have never received a session before and you do not want to receive an overly intense massage. Being it will be the first time for your body to experience massage, do not allow them to go to deep or too intense.
Is there ever a circumstance or injury where massage could make things worse instead of better?
Yes, there are contraindications when a massage should not be performed: an acute injury, an opened wound, when you are feverish, to name a few. First duty of a massage therapist is to cause no harm. If in doubt, communicate with your therapist.
How often should I schedule massage?
Receiving massage can easily be a form of everyday self self care. All bodies are different though, so knowing your body will help you determine how often to get massage, and what type it should be. Much like weight training, some types of bodywork and massage do require periods of rest before receiving again. For structurally integrative and fascia oriented massage, if there is ever any signs of an inflammatory response or bruising, then that must completely heal before resuming further work of that nature.
I’m never sure about gratuities. How much should I tip?
Gratuity is an act of gratitude, it is never a requirement to tip. If you are a gracious receiver of an awesome massage 15-20% is a standard percentage. The ultimate gratuity is not a gratuity, but re-booking the next massage.
Why does my therapist always tell me to drink lots of water after the massage is over?
There is an overused myth in the massage world which expresses massage therapy releases toxins. Massage therapists ask clients to drink plenty of water to help flush out these toxins. However, there is no clinical research to provide evidence that massage therapy releases toxins. That being said, massage therapy does generate heat. This heat can create a sensation of thirst, so, drinking water will help quench this thirst, plus, drinking water is known to stimulate the lymphatic and urinary systems which are good for the body.
* If you have a question that has not been addressed here, please feel free to write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to address it for you and may even add it to this post!