Even if you are a seasoned recipient of professional massage, you might not always get a consistent massage experience.
Suppose you are unfamiliar with the massage therapist. In that case, you might not know how to ask for the techniques or pressure you prefer.
Suppose you are new to professional massage, learning how to navigate new terminology. In that case, having direct communication with your therapist, and managing your expectations will go a long way to having the therapeutic experience you're looking for.
First, let’s dispel some myths about what professional massage is – and isn’t.
Every massage therapist should be the same. Not true. Every therapist will provide a different experience. They likely will have been educated in a different setting, learned other techniques and processes, and have a different communication style. That's a good thing! It means you can find the perfect fit for you.
Massage should be painful to work. Not at all. With proper communication, your experience on the massage table should never be painful. Although some discomfort may occur when working through guarded, compensated, and vulnerable areas. The kind of deep work necessary to improve some conditions can be uncomfortable, but that should feel different from injurious and outright painful treatment. Massage doesn't HAVE to be uncomfortable, but recalibrating the tissues and doing the hard deep tissue work is innately uncomfortable.
If you have a terrible experience, it's because the massage therapist is bad. Not exactly. You have the power to improve your experience – and results – of therapeutic massage by taking some health and preparation steps into your own hands. That’s what we’re going to talk about right now.
An hour of your time and financial investment in a massage that didn't live up to your expectations is disappointing and frustrating. With these simple tips, you can reliably have a positive experience on the massage table even if you're seeing a new therapist.
- Beginning the day before your massage, hydrate as much as possible. Try for as near to a gallon of water as you can stomach. Hydration options include water, broth, and juice. Avoid excess diuretics like caffeine and energy drinks.
- Wear comfortable, stretchy clothes – especially if you prefer to keep clothes on during your session.
- Arrive 15 minutes early for check-in, and some self-care preparatory exercises like gentle stretching. If your therapist is in a chiropractic or physical therapy office, take advantage of other available resources.
- Remove watches and jewelry.
Communication is a two-way street. If you’re new to therapeutic massage, familiarize yourself with as many of the available modalities and therapies as possible, so you know what to ask for.
Before your massage starts, don’t hesitate to express your preferences to your therapist. Options include:
- Lubrication types
- Music preferences
- Table heat and room temperature
- Draping “snugness”
- Head cradle position
- Position (front/back/side)
- Amount of verbal communication
Throughout your massage, your therapist should check in with you to make sure they deliver on your expectations. If they aren't checking in, and aren't meeting your expectations, don't feel awkward about asking them to re-direct their efforts. However, suppose you have indicated that you prefer not chatting during your massage. In that case, it will be up to you to let them know if your expectations are not being met. A simple way to ask for less chat is "I need to really de-stress and experience deep quiet rest during my massage.”
Prepare your mental list of the aches and pains you are experiencing, and then leave it to your therapist to determine how best to help.
Finally, remember your massage therapist is a person too – respectful and friendly manners work both ways.
Be in a mental state of receptivity. Allowing your mind to be open to new ideas and have curiosity about what your therapist is working on and how, will be a more enjoyable experience than remaining rigid in your preconceived expectations.
Physically, allow your extremities to be overtaken by gravity when on the table. Like a ragdoll, letting your limbs to just “drop” is the most effective way to allow a total relaxation and be in the correct state of physical receptivity.
Remember your rights! As the vulnerable recipient under the explicit care of the massage therapist, you have every right to ensure your comfort, safety, and dignity – just as the therapist also maintains the same rights of their own.
If for any reason you have communicated with your service provider and have felt unheard, unappreciated, or abused mentally, emotionally, physically, or any other way, you can end your session by simply requesting the therapist give you space to be in the room alone.
Any reputable spa or clinic will give the recipient the benefit of the doubt and take a course of action appropriate to the complaint. A gentle reminder that taking advantage of this tactic as a way to “get a freebie” isn’t in your karmic interest.
If your massage service goes as well as you could have wanted, or even better than you would have imagined, let your therapist know! Specific feedback helps therapists hone their craft. Formal feedback in the form of a tip, or public review, is always appreciated. Good care deserves recognition and will reinforce good technique and good rapport, so you continue to receive the care you prefer and deserve.
Massage is an integral part of your self-care practice – but it's not the only tool! Self-care covers everything from nutrition and sleep quality to exercise and body care practices. Being your most healthy self, inside and out, can only benefit you in the long run. Need assistance making the vital shift to lifelong health and vitality? Your massage therapist can help – just ask!