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  • Take the Stress Out of Gift Giving

    Guide to Gifting Massage

    pile of gift boxes

    When you’re relaxing on a massage table, it’s easy to see massage as a gift. Whether you’re there to reduce pain, to ease anxiety, to help you recover from the physical and mental stresses of work or athletic training or parenting or simply being alive, massage is a moment of freedom in an otherwise (or only occasionally) crushing world. If you’re thinking of sharing the gift of massage with someone else for any reason (cough*Christmas*cough*Birthday*Cough*) let me just say what an awesome friend, family member, or colleague you are.

    Obviously, I’m a big fan of giving massage as a gift! But just as with choosing to visit a massage therapist yourself, there are some considerations when offering this kind of gift.

    How to (Successfully!) Give the Gift of Massage

    Massage is an amazing gift! But there are a few steps to think about in advance.

    Think about the best way to deliver your gift.

    Gift certificates are the easiest way to give a massage as a gift, as it allows the individual to schedule on their own. Scheduling on their behalf can sometimes work as well, although this can require additional strategic planning. 

    Look for genuine excitement.

    When you mention massage are they enthusiastic about the idea? “Oh my gosh, that sounds amazing!” is what you’re looking for. A polite “Yeah sure, I guess I would go if it were free,” isn’t gonna cut it. If you can get a more excited response by offering new socks, go with the socks. But many people are thrilled by the idea of getting a professional massage as a gift.

    Talk with your massage therapist.

    Are they accepting new clients right now? Do they allow people to purchase massages as a gift? Do they offer the kind of massage this person needs or wants? For example, I offer therapeutic massage to people with chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and those that have high levels of stress. If you’re looking to give a massage as a gift to someone who needs work on the knee they injured in football practice, I wouldn’t be the best fit.

    Plan WELL in advance if you want to make the appointment for them.

    Massage openings fill quickly, especially around holidays! Don’t assume that spaces will be available on a particular day just because you’ve got a month to spare.

    Consider and remove obstacles.

    Unlike a nice sweater or a juicy novel, there can be a few barriers to someone enjoying even a gifted massage.

    • Transportation and accessibility. Will you need to help them get to their massage?
    • Childcare and other caregiving responsibilities. Will they be more likely to accept the gift if it’s accompanied by an offer to babysit?
    • Tips, parking, and other expenses. It helps to cover the entire cost. At my practice there’s free covered parking in a lot attached to the building (Yee Ha! You don’t find that very often in downtown Grand Rapids.) Also, I never expect tips, especially if I’m providing pain relief, aka healthcare. I accept them, but there’s never, ever an expectation.
    • Anxiety. Receiving a massage for the first time can be intimidating. Going together or talking about what to expect can be useful.

    Massage Should Never Come as a Surprise

    Massages are great! (For many people.) Surprises are too! (For some.) But if you’re cooking up a surprise outing for a loved one, consider something else. There are a few reasons for this:

    • They might not like massages at all. It’s hard to imagine if you’re a fan of massage, but some people just aren’t comfortable with it. Imagine being invited out for your birthday and finding out on arrival that your loved one has planned for the two of you to get lunch at the steak house they love even though you’re vegan… or vice versa – Hey carnivore… we’re eating your birthday meal at that new vegan restaurant. Yumm Yumm.
    • They might have a contraindication that you don’t know about. Taking your niece for a surprise afternoon of pampering might seem like a fun idea until she tells you she’s dealing with poison ivy or a fresh tattoo.
    • They might want to prepare for a massage. Some people feel more comfortable getting a massage if they’ve dealt with their personal appearance first. Others might decide to forgo a hair or makeup appointment if they know they’ll be getting a massage that day. People should be given the opportunity to prepare however they see fit.
    • They might want to plan their day around the massage. Some people feel extra tired or a bit woozy after a massage. If they plan on delivering an important speech or competing in an important athletic event shortly afterwards, they might be concerned about how it would affect their performance. And rightly so, it might affect those things and more quite profoundly.
    • They might have a preferred massage therapist. Not all massages are the same! If they already have a relationship with a massage therapist that works best for them, they might not want a massage from someone who has a completely different style.

    The solution to this? Talk about it in advance. It’s better to take some of the mystery out of a surprise and know that it’s welcome than to end up with the Worst Gift Ever trophy, or worse. In my 16+ years as a massage therapist I’ve seen my fair share of people show up to their surprise massage and be less than happy. I’ve seen numerous fights in reception areas, a few promises of a fight later in lieu of making a scene, and even 1 breakup. Seriously. Make sure they really, really, really like massage. And for the love of all that’s holy, make sure they WANT one!

    What if They Love it?

    This has been an awful lot of what-if-ing. What if they don’t want a massage? What if they can’t get to their massage? What if they’re just being polite, and get a massage but kind of hate it? But there’s another important possibility to consider: what if they love it?

    For starters, you won’t hear anything about it from me. It doesn’t matter if the recipient is your spouse, sibling, parent, or anyone else super-close to you. If they really enjoy their massage, if it eases their pain, if it helps them to relax … you can ask them all about it. The fact that it was your gift doesn’t make a difference. Once you give that gift, it belongs to them, and their experience is just as private as though it was all their own idea. Here in Michigan, we massage therapists are licensed as healthcare providers and legally can’t tell you if we’ve seen them without their written permission. Even if we get their permission, we still might not tell you.

    Don’t Forget the Most Important Gift Recipient: Yourself

    You can’t pour from an empty cup. Rest matters. Peace matters. Sometimes, one of the best gifts you can offer others is to take a moment away from the chaotic world, so that you can be a better spouse, parent, colleague, neighbor, or friend. Sometimes self-care can feel like a strangely radical act, but it’s a vital one. When we have good examples of people who know to care for themselves before running themselves ragged, it’s a better environment for everyone.

    To give the gift of massage: If you’re reading this in your email or on social media, simply visit my website, and click on the link at the bottom of the page that says Gift Certificates. If you’re reading this ON my website, click on the link at the bottom of the page (yes, THAT page… every page) that says Gift Certificates.

    Choose the type of gift certificate you want to purchase and add it to your cart. When you’re checking out, make sure to use the “additional note to merchant” box to tell me who it’s for (so I can put it in my system under their name – that way if they lose the gift certificate they can still redeem it and the joker who found it won’t be able to use it). If you’re running tight on time and want me to mail it directly to them, you’ll also have to give me their address as well as the exact name (or nickname) you want on the to and from lines.