AKA: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about a massage session but were afraid to ask
I’ve been working as a massage therapist since 2003 and over the years I’ve encountered a LOT of questions about massage and bodywork so I thought rather than make someone feel awkward if they have to ask what they think is a dumb question, why not answer most of them here? So let’s get the ball rolling and dive right in!
#1: Do I have to take my clothes off?
That depends on the service you’re having. If you are uncomfortable about disrobing, we here at Michigan Massage and Wellness offer several services that you can remain fully clothed for, such as MPS Therapy (although we may need to move some clothing a little so we can have some skin contact, but we can even use the Dolphin Neurostim through denim). Fascial Stretch Therapy requires you to be wearing loose, comfortable clothing. There’s also Lokte Method (and if you’ve been in the studio area of our office in the winter, you know that you need to dress warmly for that!)
#2: How often should I get a massage?
Again, that depends. If you’re dealing with an acute injury or chronic pain, the more frequently the better. However, we understand that regular massage and bodywork sessions may not be in everyones schedule or budget, but let me be completely honest here: that herniated disk that is compressing on your cervical nerves and causing numbness and tingling down your arm isn’t going to go away if you’re not doing some self care at home in between your massage sessions. And we’re not going to correct a problem that’s been bothering you for 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years in a single visit.
Now, if you generally feel good and nothing actually hurts (as in causes you physical pain when you do something like move or cough), a lot of our clients get tremendous benefit from a monthly ‘maintenance’ session.
#3: I didn’t shave my legs, are you going to be grossed out?
Let me be perfectly clear here. WE DON’T CARE IF YOU DIDN’T SHAVE YOUR LEGS. I joke with my client that always apologizes and tell her “psh, you’re just another body to me”. But seriously. You’re fine. Now, if you’re coming to see us after you just did a Crossfit workout or ran a 10k in the middle of July and you didn’t shower? Then yes, we will be grossed out and we might secretly shame you. Do yourself (and us) a favor and rinse off if you’re smelly.
#4: Do I have to tip?
There’s a saying that goes “tipping is an outward way of expressing inside gratitude” and while we certainly don’t ever expect a gratuity, it is always appreciated. Our therapists work hard and while we pay them a much fairer wage than a lot of places in the area, if you feel that the service you received was beneficial to you and you would like to give something a little extra, it does not go unnoticed. Do you tip your hair stylist for making your hair look amazing? Or your nail tech for the great mani/pedi they just did? Just because a massage doesn’t change your outward appearance, think of how good you feel for days after your session.
Now, for some services such as MPS Therapy, those are more on the medical/orthopedic side and treated as such so don’t feel that you need to tip for that.
#5: I’m a man, what happens if I get aroused during the session?
There are two ways of looking at this scenario. Number 1: you’re so relaxed that your body just happens to do that. It’s a normal reaction for a healthy male when their central nervous system is calm and chill. We simply ignore it. Besides, we aren’t doing any kind of work directly in that vicinity that would cause such a reaction. And while it can be embarrassing, we are trained professionals and know that there is a small chance it could happen.
Now on the other end of the spectrum is number 2: Where you visit our office because somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind you think that we offer such a service to take care of such a thing. In which case, brute force may be involved to get you off of our table and out of our office as quickly and swiftly as possible and the authorities will be notified. So, don’t be that guy.
#6: I really hurt after my massage. Did you break me?
I hope not! But, that’s what we have liability insurance for! In all seriousness, it’s normal to be a little sore for 1-2 days after receiving a bodywork session. Especially if it’s for a nagging injury that’s been ruining your life for months and you *finally* decided to do something about it. As one client years ago said about her first session: “I was so sore the next day, and a little bit the day after, but by the third day, it was as if the heavens opened up and the angels came down singing and I could turn my head again without pain”. That’s what is to be expected! However, and I’m especially talking to you men out there, THERE IS NO NEED TO BE A HERO DURING YOUR MASSAGE. We are trained to look for cues when clients don’t like to tell us that there’s too much pressure. We look for someone holding their breath, or tightening up, or flailing around the table. But, if it hurts, and you’re not breathing, please tell us! The worst feedback you can give is no feedback. Because it doesn’t give us an opportunity to correct it then and there, and then you take to social media to complain and we have no recourse because you didn’t talk to us about it when you had the chance.
Rebecca Tamm, LMT