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  • 12 Things That Matter When You Get Massage & 5 That Don’t

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    Massage is a very subjective thing and no list about any aspect of it is going to be all things to all people. But that’s OK, because this is my list that I’ve honed over the last 12 years as both a massage therapist and massage therapy client.

    The Things That Matter Most When Getting a Massage (in no particular order)

    1. Cleanliness – You don’t want us rubbing dirt and sweat into your body, do you?
    2. Up to date health history – Just because it’s not a muscle related symptom, diagnosis, or treatment, doesn’t mean your massage therapist doesn’t need to know about it. Horror stories of serious injury, and even death, abound when massage therapists are not kept up to date on the state of their client’s health. This applies to any change, no matter how small or insignificant you may feel it is. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
    3. Temperature – Cold muscles won’t relax and release their tension because they’re too busy contracting and shivering in an attempt to warm up. If you’re chilly, please let us know so we can get another blanket out or turn up the table warmer.
    4. Painful Positions – If certain positions increase your pain please let us know. In most cases we can bolster or position you so you can lie on the table pain-free during your massage.
    5. Painful Massage – Likewise, if the massage itself is increasing your pain we need to know. The only thing a muscle in pain can do is contract in an effort to protect itself. While some massage techniques may cause discomfort, you should be able to relax the muscle on the exhale of a deep breath, even during the deepest part of the work. Anything beyond that is counter productive.
    6. Decision to Disrobe – You should never take off more clothes than you’re comfortable taking off. Ever. Even if the only thing you take off is your shoes. A good massage therapist will be able to work with any level of dress or undress. If you’re more undressed than you’re comfortable with, your body will react to your discomfort by holding tension in your muscles as you lie on the massage table. Since that’s the exact opposite of the tension-relieving effect you’re after, leave on whatever you want. Remember, if your comfort level changes you can always disrobe further when you get your next massage.
    7.  Musical Selection – Music can make or break your massage experience. It’s also very subjective. Some of the music your therapist plays may have a tempo or style that is downright irritating to you. There may also be some types of music that you like, but whose lyrics or tempo keep you from fully relaxing and drifting away to LaLa Land. Either way, you’re not going to get the full benefit of your massage if the music is either distracting or irritating you. Please let us know if the music we’re playing isn’t working for you so we can change it and you can fully enjoy your massage.
    8. Goals – Do you seek pain relief, want to relax, feel pampered, or some combination of those? Believe it or not, those 4 broad goals take four different types of massage to achieve. If you don’t know or won’t tell us what your goal is, we will have to guess and you probably aren’t going to get the massage that’s best for you. I’m sure you have better things to spend your money on than guesswork.
    9. Realistic Expectations – We may be dubbed muscle whisperers or muscle detectives by grateful clients, but we’re still mortal. We cannot take away years of pain and dysfunction in 60 minutes time no matter how much you may want us to. The more stressed you are, the higher your pain, and the longer you’ve had pain and/or dysfunction, the longer it will take to get the muscles to relax and to get your body back to a healthy state. We also can’t give 6 areas priority treatment during a one hour session while still massaging your entire body. I wish we could. Believe me. In general, we can address one priority area per half hour of session time.
    10. Be Proactive – I bring this up time and again because it’s that important. Don’t wait until you hurt to get a massage. Sure massage will help undo the pain that sets in when you overdo things, but it’s much more than that. Massage can also help keep your body in good working order, which can prevent pain and dysfunction in the first place. It also cuts the effects of stress short so they don’t have time to accumulate and cause your body all sorts of pain. It’s easier to  maintain a healthy, pain-free body than it is to regain it.
    11. Taking Responsibility -People who take responsibility for their own health not only get better massage results, those results last longer. Why? Because they do the stretches their massage therapist recommends, they actively work to reduce the stress in their life, and they make needed changes to correct ergonomic and postural problems. They also know that all healing and change comes from within; others can only facilitate the process.
    12. Respect – In many states, licensed massage therapists are considered healthcare providers regardless of whether they work in a spa, chiropractic office, or have their own practice. But regardless of whether they are considered healthcare providers, they are still professionals who went to school to learn their craft, and in most cases are required to take continuing education classes in order to maintain their license. They deserve to be respected as the professional they are. You can do this by being on time for your appointment, calling to cancel/reschedule with as much notice as possible, not trying to haggle over the cost of your session, and not making jokes of a sexual nature. Hint: making off color jokes, especially about our profession, is a great way to find yourself in need of a new massage therapist. We’ve worked hard to distinguish ourselves from the seedy places that operate under the guise of our profession, and tend to take offense at these type jokes.

    These Things Shouldn’t Matter At All When You Get A Massage

    1. Political Affiliation (or lack thereof) – Muscles are muscles whether you’re a democrat, republican, libertarian, green, independent, fascist, or don’t subscribe to politics of any kind. That said, politics is a hot bed issue and the old rule about not discussing it in polite company is a good idea, if for no other reason than your massage therapist may not share your views. If your therapist were to get upset by a political conversation they would likely not be able to give you the best massage they are capable of, no matter how hard they may try. If you were to get upset by such a conversation, your body would react by tensing up some or all of its muscles, and that’s at odds with the results you’re probably looking for from the massage.
    2. Religious Beliefs (or lack thereof) – Muscles are muscles whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Pagan, Atheist, or simply Spiritual But Not Religious. That said, religion is also a hot bed issue and the old rule about not discussing it in polite company is a good idea, for all the same reasons it’s a good idea to not discuss politics.
    3. Sexual Orientation – Love is a basic human need. The fact that you have love in your life is important. Who you love and how you express that love (as long as it’s consensual) is not. I’ve massaged clients who are straight, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and there’s not a bit of difference in the way the muscles respond from one “group” to the next.
    4. Age – Everyone of every age can benefit from massage. That said, there are special considerations for the very young and the very old. Pediatric and  gerontology massage are both specialties that require advanced education.
    5. Gender or Gender Identity – Muscles are genderless and respond the same regardless of either your biological gender or your identification (or lack of identification) with it.

    There are tons of things I could add to both of these lists, but I wanted to keep them a manageable size. Is there something that you feel should have made the list? If so, please tell me about it in the comments.