People get massages for many reasons, including relaxation, physical therapy, and for healing chronic conditions. In the past, massage therapy was associated with extravagance and considered a luxury for the wealthy, but today’s massage therapists serve clients from every walk of life. You don’t have to go to a fancy spa or a 5-star hotel to get a great massage; massage therapists work in homes, offices, hospitals, clinics, and even airports.
If you’ve never had a professional massage before, relax. This article explains exactly what to expect—and how to have the best possible massage therapy experience.
Preparing for Your First Massage
Eat lightly (or not at all) before your massage, and be sure to drink plenty of water. During your massage, your therapist will push lactic acid out of your muscles and into your bloodstream. If you’re well hydrated during your massage, your body will flush out more of these waste products.
If you have sunburn, poison ivy, a skin irritation, a rash, or are sick with a fever, please consider rescheduling your session for a more appropriate time. You want to feel your best for your first massage experience. If you have any concerns about getting a massage or suffer from any major medical conditions, ask your doctor if massage therapy is right for you. Your physician may even be able to provide a list of massage therapists who are trained to work with patients undergoing medical care— including cancer patients.
Arrive early to your session so you don’t arrive anxious and rushed. Many massage therapists encourage clients to bring their favorite music playlists and aromatherapy concoctions.
Pre-Massage Intake Procedures
Most massage therapists will conduct a short interview with you before your massage, and may ask you to fill out a short health history questionnaire. It’s important to be honest with your practitioner about your aches and pains, the medications you take, and any serious health conditions you may have. Your massage therapist may ask you to sign a form to show you understand your right to privacy and confidentiality.
You can also tell your massage therapist which areas you want them to work on and which ones to avoid. Be sure to share any apprehensions you may have about disrobing—your practitioner can describe the process and explain exactly how they will maintain your privacy.
What Happens During Your First Massage?
After you discuss your health history with your massage therapist, they will probably ask you to get comfortable. Feel free to ask them to adjust the room’s temperature, music, and aromatherapy (if applicable). To get a healthy, relaxing massage, you must release all tension and anxiety. If you have any questions about the massage process, be sure to address them with your massage therapist before continuing.
Once you’re content with the massage environment and know what to expect, your practitioner will likely ask you to disrobe. It’s totally okay to only partially undress and stay within your comfort zone. Make a decision ahead of time so you don’t have any anxiety when it’s time to undress.
Your massage therapist will give you a sheet with which to cover yourself and leave the room while you undress. Professional practitioners are trained to use draping techniques that only expose the area of your body they’re working on, and never your breasts or genitals. You are always in control and have the ability to pause or stop the session at any time.
During your massage, you may experience a variety of physiological responses, such as laughing and crying. You may even find yourself shivering (even in a warm room). Massages can also bring up buried emotions like joy, sadness, or exhaustion. Always feel free to communicate with your massage therapist; you may want them to change techniques, music, draping— or even take a break. Your comfort is of paramount importance.
8 Ways to Get the Most from Your Massage
- Hydrate Before and After Your Massage: Drinking lots of water increases your body’s capacity to process and flush out the toxins released by your massage. Nothing contributes to a healthy massage more than all-day hydration.
- Communicate with Your Massage Therapist: Talk with your practitioner about the specific body areas that need work, such as back pain from lifting or neck pain from computer work. If your session goals are more therapeutic than relaxing, make sure to give your practitioner plenty of feedback about your levels of pain and relief.
- Know Your Comfort Level: Wearing bulky clothing during a massage can limit your results, but don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Remember, your massage therapist is a professional, and they’ve worked on bodies of all shapes and sizes. However, only you know the amount of undressing that’s right for your massage experience.
- Enter a Meditative State: When you’re receiving a massage, let go of your worries and anxious thoughts. Use your favorite breathing and meditation techniques to slow down your mind and put your attention on your body.
- Relax: Don’t tense up your muscles as your therapist works on them. Relax, and let your practitioner help your body release stress and pressure. However, don’t be shy—tell your massage therapist if you need them to use a lighter touch or a different technique.
- Remember to Breathe: You may feel mild pain when your massage therapist works on a tender spot or a knotted muscle. Keep breathing deeply if you feel any discomfort—this will help you relax the muscle, soothe the pain, and release your tension.
- Don’t Talk Too Much: Of course, tell your therapist when you need a lighter or firmer touch or if the room is too warm or cool. However, chatting during your massage can prevent you from giving your body the attention it deserves, entering a more relaxed state, and may cause you to tense up.
- Take Your Time Afterward: When your massage is over, your massage therapist will probably tell you to get up very slowly. You will probably need time to adjust to your new, relaxed body. Drink some water, sit down, and don’t rush back into your busy life. Avoid driving or climbing stairs for at least 20 minutes as your body may need a little time to readjust to a normal, alert state. Give yourself time to achieve a new, healthy emotional and physical balance by spending the rest of your day relaxing, enjoying yourself, and hydrating your body.
- Forgach, K. (2010) 10 Tips to get the most out of a massage. Retrieved from http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-08-30/health/sfl-massage-tips-082510_1_massage-therapist-body-breathing
- Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743
- Ness, S. (2012) The importance of human touch for cancer patients. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/expert-blog/cancer-and-touch/bgp-20056335
- What can I expect in a first massage therapy visit? (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/what-can-i-expect-first-massage-theraphy-visit