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Unspoken Rules of Being a Massage Client

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General Guidelines for Receiving a Massage

So, you've been thinking about visiting your local massage studio? You've heard wonderful things about the healing power of massage, the remarkable health benefits (both physical and mental) . . . but you're not sure if your self-confidence is going to let you? "Do I have to be naked in front of this complete stranger?" you might ask. "Should I shower before or after my massage?" you wonder. Fear not. Not only are therapists trained to not look at you with judgmental eyes, they more than understand, because they're human, too, with just as many insecurities. Worries about body image shouldn't get in the way of your health and wellbeing. Ever.

Here are some guidelines, however, that may help you ease your anxiety when receiving a massage:

To shower, or not to shower, the answer is YES! Not only is it good hygiene, it's good manners. You wouldn't go to the doctor's office smelling like you haven't showered in two days would you? Most clients prefer to shower both before and after a massage. This is simply so that you don't stink when you go in for the massage, and you get all of the lotion or oil that the therapist used off of your skin afterward. Its not bad to leave lotion or oil on, but most people don't like feeling like a grease ball all day.

Women . . . the biggest apology I hear is, "I'm sorry, I haven't shaved my legs in forever . . . I'm probably all prickly." Honestly, it doesn't even phase us as therapists. We massage people that are probably 10 times hairier than your three days unshaven legs. It doesn't poke or hurt us in any way, and really, as I have stated, we're not looking at your body in that way. What we see are the muscle structures, the consistency of your muscles and tissues, and where there may be any adhesion's that need working out. We may be looking at the skin, but its more of an assessment . . . do you seem dehydrated, do you have shallow veins or varicose veins (which is not a judgment, it's actually a contraindication for massage due to the delicate condition of the veins). So, in the grand scheme of things, unshaven legs go largely unnoticed. However, I will say that I myself, as a therapist, have said those exact words . . . knowing full well my therapist couldn't care less.

Tipping is never necessary, however, it again comes down to manners. If you received a good relaxing massage that addressed the areas you were coming into relieve, then it is courteous to leave a tip for your therapist. I generally tell people when asked to tip us as you would staff in a restaurant which is 15% minimum and however much else you feel is appropriate. Most sessions come in one hour (60 min), hour and a half (90 min) and up to two hours (120 min) increments. I feel it is an appropriate guideline to say $10-$15 for an hour, $15-$20 for an hour and a half, and $20+ for a two hour. Massage is hard on our bodies, and like most caregivers, we usually neglect ourselves and rarely ever get massaged. (As of last Tuesday, I hadn't had a massage in 6 months.) So, it is nice to know that our work is not going unpunished. As in any service industry, if a therapist feels jilted, they are likely to not work on you again or may do poorly on purpose next time they see you. So, being cheap isn't something you ought to think about being if you're asking someone to do something for you. Just like in food, you wouldn't treat your server poorly if you wanted your food hot and without spit would you? Same rule applies to massage. (Though we're not likely to spit on you.)

RELAX! It's what you're there to do! For up to two hours you are free from whatever bills you have to pay, whatever kids you have to help with homework, soccer and ballet, making dinner, giving baths, putting to bed, etc.. You are free from work stress, life stress, and free from life in general, so relax. It is a small bit of time to take completely for yourself, which, as Americans, we cannot simply just . . . be . . . we are taught that we must constantly multitask and as a result are one of the highest stressed countries in the world. Unfortunately, this is probably what is keeping me in business. However, what I mean to say is, while you're lying on the table, don't think, don't overanalyze, in fact, don't even move. You're not even asked to move your own limbs! We do it all for you. The vast majority of therapists are strong enough to move your arm or leg wherever they need it at the time and can do so without you having to lift it. Something I am constantly telling my clients is "juuuuust relax, as I'm gently shaking their arm that is so incredibly rigid it would stay where it was if I let go. My advice to you as the client is this: allow yourself the time to be pampered. Receive the compassion and relaxation that you have paid for. Tell yourself, "I am a stick of butter, and I'm going to melt into this warm table and not move for the next hour." You owe it to yourself, and it's much easier for us to do our jobs when you're not trying to help.

Don't be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. If, during your massage, the therapist is using too much pressure and it hurts . . . say so! There's no need to be rude, but a simple, "that's a little too much pressure," lets your therapist know that you are no longer comfortable. Plain and simple, everyone feels pressure differently and we cannot feel what you feel. So, what may have been perfect pressure for the client before you, could feel bone-crushing and highly uncomfortable to you and we will never know unless you tell us. So, speak up when something doesn't feel right. It goes along with getting what you paid for. You deserve the best massage your money can buy, but our skills can only go so far.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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JP on November 02, 2019:

I had 3 massages with my previous LMT (she moved) just to establish rapport & trust, because I figure I'd look like a pervert if, at first session, I told her I scheduled massage because of pain where legstraps of climbing harness press into body. At 4th appointment, I told her my biggest problem area was piriformis (only half true). After the piriformis massage, I expanded problem areas at each massage until ultimately, after a dozen massages, I admitted my biggest problem area is from the legstraps of my climbing harness - I have excruciating pain from glutes to piriformis to inner thighs to groin to hips. We laughed about my "not wanting to seem like a pervert," she massaged these areas, & i felt a ton better. She said I wouldn't have come across as a pervert had i told her this at our first session - but I'm not convinced. Now that she has moved, I need to find another LMT. Other opinions on confessing my problem areas at first session - will I look like a pervert? Thanks!

Lmt In Tampa on April 04, 2012:

"Sh*t Guys Say To Massage Therapists" Short Spoof/Comedy Movie about clients

Hi there! I'm a Massage Therapist (7+ years exp.) and I collaborated with a filmmaker to make super-short comedy/film about some of the ridiculous stuff that people (mainly guys... Lol) have said to me as a Massage Therapist... The link to my video is below... Do you mind  REPOSTING/SHARING ON YOUR FACEBOOK? 

I would really like for other Massage Therapists and Facebookers to see it...  Thanks!

Ps-It took a lot of guts to make it... So, at the very least, I hope you at find it slightly amusing or entertaining!

Erin on March 21, 2012:

Thank you for posting. This is great advise. I'm not a massage newbie, but I often stress about not having shaved the morning of a massage. :)

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