Increasing numbers of people across all segments of the population hire massage therapists to relax, relieve symptoms, and heal their bodies and minds. Here are some examples of groups who commonly utilize massage therapy:
- Athletes, both professional and amateur
- Expecting mothers
- People experiencing high stress levels
- Chronically ill people
- People who have been in a car crash or other type of accident
- Elderly and disabled people
Massage therapists help their clients recover from muscle fatigue and injury, gain flexibility, and improve performance. Though people today have unprecedented access to massage therapy, some still haven’t tried it yet because it’s new and unfamiliar to them.
If you’re thinking about booking your first massage therapy session, you probably have a lot of questions. If you’re unsure about the benefits of massage, the process, or how it can help you, read on. Here, we answer your questions in detail and help you gain the knowledge and confidence you need to contact a massage therapist and enjoy your first experience.
Q: How Much Does Massage Therapy Cost?
A: According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the average rate for an hour of massage therapy is about $65. This price will depend on a variety of factors, such as your location and the specific expertise and services offered by the provider.
In some cases, your health insurance provider may cover all or part of the cost of your massage session. If you plan to use insurance to cover the cost of your massage, confirm with the massage therapist that they accept your insurance when you schedule your first appointment.
Q: Will I Be Naked During My Massage?
A: No matter what, you’re in charge of how much you undress during your massage therapy session. Talk with your practitioner before your massage and specify the areas of your body on which you want them to work—and which to avoid. Your massage therapist will only expose the parts of your body they’re working on—never your breasts or genitals. If you feel uncomfortable with your massage, you can pause or stop it at any time.
Before your massage, your therapist will give you a sheet with which to cover yourself. They will allow you to undress privately and employ proper “draping” techniques once they begin your massage.
Additionally, it should be noted that not all massage and bodywork techniques require the client to undress.
Q: What’s the Difference Between Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy?
A: Both massage and bodywork therapists manipulate their clients’ soft tissues to promote and maintain health. Though these practices have a great deal in common, bodyworkers tend to focus on pain relief and restoring body function. Massage therapists can also help clients meet these goals but place a greater emphasis on relaxation, stress reduction, and overall well-being.
Q: Is It Hard to Find a Massage Therapist I Can Trust?
A: According to the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, nearly 300,000 people in the United States study massage therapy and work as massage therapists. State agencies regulate and license massage therapists to ensure professionalism, privacy, and safety. Many states require therapists to take the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination. Determine your state’s licensing requirements and ask your massage therapist for their credentials to increase your trust in their services.
Q: Does My Health Insurance Cover Massage Therapy?
A: Some insurers cover alternative therapies like massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. However, you may face higher out-of-pocket expenses than one might expect. Before making your first massage appointment, check with your insurer and your therapist to make sure you’re covered. Ask if you need a prescription or a referral from your physician, if you must pay a deductible or a copay, or if you have coverage only for a limited number of visits.
Q: What Are the Benefits of Massage Therapy?
A: People get massages for many reasons:
- Injury recovery
- Athletic massage
- Pain reduction
- Stress relief
- Physical therapy
- Migraine headache mitigation
- Improved digestion
- Fibromyalgia treatment
- Insomnia prevention
- Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer symptom reduction
Q: Can I File a Complaint against a Massage Therapist?
A: You can file a complaint with your state licensing entity if you experience legal or ethical misconduct during a massage session. Each state board has its own complaint-handling procedure; be sure to ask for details and necessary documentation.
Q: When Should I Avoid Massage Therapy?
A: Massage therapists offer non-invasive, non-narcotic treatments for many types of injuries and pain. However, massage isn’t for everyone. People with high blood pressure, deep-vein thrombosis, and certain skin conditions should check with a doctor before getting a massage. If you have a fever, feel dizzy, or have recently been in an accident, you may want to postpone your massage appointment.
Q: What Kind of Training Does It Take to Be a Massage Therapist?
A: At the 300 U.S. massage therapy schools, aspiring practitioners typically get 600-700 hours of training. Almost all massage therapists take continuing education classes, averaging 20 hours per year. Ask your practitioner about their educational experiences, practical training, and ongoing professional development.
Q: What If I Don’t Want a Massage Therapist to Work on a Certain Part of My Body?
A: Before your massage, let your therapist know which parts of your body you want them to avoid. For example, many clients aren’t comfortable with having their abdominal area massaged. Your massage therapist will know how to avoid any sensitive areas you identify and still give you a therapeutic experience.
Q: Is It Okay to Talk During a Massage Session?
A: You should always feel free to express any discomfort when undergoing a massage. However, avoid intense chatting with your massage therapist during your session; this can lead to increased muscular tension and limit the effectiveness of your massage experience.
The amount of communication you should engage in during your massage depends on your goals for the session. If you want a relaxing massage, talk as little as necessary and let your mind and body enter a meditative state. You can even practice mindful breathing, which lowers muscular tension and increases the benefits of your massage. On the other hand, if you’ve asked your massage therapist to use increased pressure and deep-tissue techniques to help you recover from an injury, communication is key. Be sure to give your practitioner regular feedback on the amount of pressure you need and which specific areas feel painful or tight.
Q: What Happens If I Fall Asleep during My Massage?
A: It’s quite common for people to fall asleep during relaxing massages. Massage therapists typically take this as a compliment and a sign that they’re providing maximum relaxation to their clients. Enjoy your massage experience and don’t expect yourself to stay awake and alert at all times. Many clients allow their bodies and minds to “reset” in deeply relaxing states.
Q: What If My Stomach Growls During a Massage—or Worse?
A: Massage therapists create “judgment-free zones” with their clients and understand that massages can sometimes lead to clients making strange noises, passing gas, or even have deeply emotional experiences. If you feel the need to laugh, cry, or even tremble, your practitioner will understand and may ask you if you want to continue the massage or take a break.
Q: Can I Stop a Massage If I Feel Uncomfortable?
A: Absolutely! You are always in control of your massage therapy session. Feel free to ask your practitioner to pause or stop your massage if you’re uncomfortable with any aspect of this treatment.
Remember, by discussing potential issues with your therapist before they arise, you can help ensure a positive experience. Most practitioners interview their clients when they arrive to find out about their health histories and needs. Take some time to share any and all concerns you have, including any shyness about your body, worries about privacy and procedure, and—of course—your goals for the session.
With a little honest communication, you can enjoy a wonderful first massage and set the stage for many more to come!
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- Are there times when I shouldn’t have a massage? (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/are-there-times-when-i-shouldnt-have-massage
- Braun, M., & Simonson, S. (2014). Introduction to massage therapy (3rd Ed.). Philadelphia: Lippencott, Williams, and Wilkins.
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