Massage Etiquette

Let's demystify massage etiquette. Falling asleep is okay; it's your time to relax. Shaving? No pressure. Clothes? Your choice. Tipping? If you want. Talking? Up to you. Erections? Natural, no issue. Bathroom? Just speak up. Feedback? Always encouraged. Your comfort matters most.

massage therapy troy michigan, michigan massage and wellness, deep tissue massage

What is proper massage etiquette?

There seems to be a lot of unspoken etiquette involved when receiving a massage. For those who’ve had numerous massages, this may be well understood. However, for those who haven’t received massage regularly, you may feel a bit intimidated or overwhelmed by all the questions running through your head about it all.

So, instead of leaving these to be ‘unspoken’ etiquette, let’s rip back the curtain and talk about some of the questions you may have, but you’re just too embarrassed to ask, because even after over 15 years, we still get questions.

What if I fall asleep?

Great! Most people arrive for their massage having been stressed, in pain, sleep-deprived, or otherwise unable to deeply relax for a while. It’s no surprise that many massage clients tend to fall asleep. Some may sleep through most of the session, while others only doze off a little here and there throughout. No matter what you do, this is the time to take care of yourself, so don’t try to fight what your body needs. If you drool, snore, pass gas, twitch, talk, or do anything else in your sleep, we won’t think twice about it. A large reason for your appointment is to get you to relax, so why shouldn’t you sleep if you want to? Just please, if you suffer from sleep apnea, warn your therapist because I have personally had an incident where one of my clients fell asleep so hard that his sleep apnea kicked in, and let me tell you, that was a scary moment when he stopped breathing! (Don’t worry, he’s fine, and I won’t let him fall asleep anymore 😉

What if I forgot to shave?

I promise, we really don’t care! And come on, we live in Michigan, and if it’s cold weather, why would you even bother shaving?? For many women, the idea of having someone massage your legs when you haven’t shaved in a while can be a bit embarrassing, but there’s nothing to be worried about. As massage therapists, we massage both men and women, hairy to clean-shaven, and everything in between. There’s no need to be concerned about whether you shaved that morning or not. My focus is on your muscles, not on your hair.

What if I don’t want you to touch a certain area?

Whether an area is too painful to touch, you’re ticklish, or otherwise just don’t want anyone touching you in a certain area, that’s perfectly fine. A typical full body massage would include your scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, stomach, back, hips, legs, and feet. Some people don’t want their hair messed up since they’ll need to return to work or go out; others are too ticklish on their feet. Whatever your reasoning, it’s your body and the session is all about your needs. If you don’t want any of those areas massaged, all you have to do is tell us. Years ago I received a student massage at a local school and had to wash my hair 3 times when I got home because there was so much oil in there from the scalp massage I received (and didn’t get informed that I was getting).

How much do I really have to take off?

The quick answer is, it’s completely up to you. Yes, to have the most effective full body massage, you’ll need to remove most or all of your clothing, but it’s your time and it’s your body. While a standard full body session is best done with no clothes, if that makes you uncomfortable, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. There are ways to work with a client fully clothed (such as a Lokte Method or Fascial Stretch Therapy session), and that is a possibility, but please understand, that regardless of how much or how little you take off, you will always be covered appropriately and the only time a body part is exposed is when we are working on it.

Should I tip?

Every therapist and establishment may have a different opinion on this, but the simple answer is, if you want to, sure. Tips are never expected but always appreciated. Just as tipping isn’t set in stone, neither is the amount. Do what you feel is best for the service you’re getting…period.

Should I talk to you?

This is, yet again, completely up to you. If you want to talk during the session, feel free. If you prefer silence, that’s fine too. There may need to be some communication in the massage to determine if the pressure is comfortable or answer some questions about any injury or pain you may be having. Other than that, we will follow your lead when it comes to conversation.

What if I get an erection?

This is a fear for many men concerning massage therapy. Physiologically, it is not uncommon for men to get an erection during a completely non-sexual massage; it is simply a matter of the parasympathetic nervous system relaxing the body and blood flow going where it may. Draping (the covering of the body with linens and blankets) is done in a way that usually prevents your therapist from even noticing such a thing. As long as there is no intent behind it or action upon it, it is a normal physiological response of the body that will be ignored. However, should there be intent or action behind it, rest assured we will call the police for solicitation.

What if I have to go to the bathroom?

There’s nothing that will snap you out of a deep relaxation like the sudden urge to use the restroom. While it’s always advised to go before your massage session to prevent this, sometimes bodily functions don’t cooperate on our schedule. If you need to go, simply speak up and we will step out so you can get dressed and go to the restroom. Once you’re back on the table, we’ll resume right where we left off.

What if I don’t like what you’re doing?

Tell us! If the pressure is too much, too little, you’re ticklish, or something just doesn’t feel right for any reason, speak up. Please, speak up. The worst feedback you can give is no feedback, and if you decide to take to social media to voice your opinion after your session it doesn’t allow us to fix the problem then and there. I have had a couple of my longtime clients see the other therapists in our practice and while they thoroughly enjoyed their session, they later confided in me that “I didn’t get pummeled like I do with you”. Well, first off, people come to me sometimes to get pummeled and they know that I am more heavy handed. But also, one admitted that it’s a hangup that she has-speaking up because “I don’t want to rock the boat”. Let me say this again: PLEASE SPEAK UP! We will be more offended if you leave a session not completely thrilled with it than if you tell us during the massage (even more than once) that you’d like more or less pressure. We will ask at least once during the session how the pressure is, so if you don’t love it, tell us.

I hope that this clears up some questions you’ve been wondering, and if you have more, reach out and we’d love to answer them!

In good hands,

Rebecca Tamm, LMT


  1. Catherine

    These are great tips even for a seasoned massage goer, thank you!

    • Rebecca Tamm

      Happy they are of some help to you Catherine!


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