It’s been said by many massage therapists that the most frequently unused gift certificate is for a free massage. It’s not that people don’t want a massage, but more likely that they don’t know what to expect, and let their fear or nervousness prevent them from enjoying it. I know when I first went for a massage, I was nervous, because I had never had a massage before, and I didn’t know how things would go.
For example, did I have to get completely naked or did I only partially disrobe? Undies? Would I be alone with a member of the opposite sex in a small confined room? Did I know what to ask for or would they just do a typical massage? So many questions!
But when sciatic pain finally hit me so badly I couldn’t even think without pain, and after four chiropractic visits, two doctor visits and plenty of pain pills and muscle relaxers did nothing to take away the pain, my best friend suggested a massage, a deep tissue, reflexology massage from a licensed neuro-muscular massage therapist.
I was doubtful. After all, doctors and chiropractors couldn’t help, but I was desperate to try anything, so I went.
What to Expect When Getting a Massage: Clothing
The good news is that when getting a massage, the massage therapist is trained to work with you at whatever your comfort level of dress or undress might be. For example, if you are uncomfortable disrobing at all, the therapist can perform stretches and certain massage techniques over your clothing, such as the mini-massage, the chair massage, and the leg and arm stretches, neck stretching and temple/face massage.
However, it should be known that the more disrobed you can feel comfortable being, the deeper and more work the massage therapist can perform. Deep tissue massage requires contact with the skin without clothing, in order to knead and grab the muscle. That doesn’t mean you have to be completely naked for a massage either.
I spoke with Kaira Jackson, a massage therapy student from the Austin School of Massage Therapy, and she says they taught students in class how to work around the client’s comfort level for disrobing. Many women prefer to keep on their bras and panties, while men can keep on their boxer shorts or underwear. Therapist are trained to work around these clothing items if necessary. Her advice, “Just ask the massage therapist how they prefer you disrobe. Most will say to do whatever makes you comfortable so you can enjoy your massage.”
What to Expect When Getting a Massage: Pain, Depth, Style
There are many types of massages and each will have a different style and depth, and some massages can be quite painful but healing. You have to decide if you need an intensive deep tissue massage that might be mildly painful or if you’d prefer a lighter Swedish massage that is more relaxing. Shiatsu massage can be anywhere from deep to light, and there are many other types of massage strokes and therapies from which to choose. Your best bet is to ask the massage therapist what type of massage they perform, and then ask what each of the styles and depth levels offer in the way of healing or relaxation.
Sports tissue massages tends to focus on healing muscle and relaxing it, while those with chronic pain might need more stretches and deep tissue work. Those who work in offices might benefit from the Swedish massage, to help relax and reduce tension. Shiatsu is good for those who have tenderness, tightness and sore muscles. And a lymph drainage massage, while the lightest touch of all the massage therapies, can really help reduce fluid buildup, edema and swelling with water retention, making it an excellent massage for those with lymphedema or women during the menstrual cycles.
Simply tell the massage therapist what it is you’re wanting to work on and let them suggest a massage style that is best suited, then they can show you different strokes and kneading depths and pressures until you find one that is comfortable for you. You should allow the therapist to use the strongest stroke possible without causing pain, for the maximum effects. Don’t ever be afraid to tell the therapist you would like a softer or harder touch or pressure. A good therapist will adjust and accommodate your body’s needs for the best therapeutic massage experience.
Registered, Licensed Massage Therapy Vs. Spa Treatments
Keep in mind that not everyone who gives a massage is a registered or licensed massage therapist. In some states, licensing or registration is required, so that the therapist has to attend classes and then take and pass an exam in order to get registered or licensed to provide massage services. However, in some states, this is not required. Spa treatments sometimes will offer these no registered massages with similar names to those of the therapeutic massage therapists, but there’s no guarantee they will be the same.
Sure, a spa massage or back rub might feel good enough, but it’s not the same as receiving a therapeutic, healing massage from someone who truly knows about muscles, tendons, skin, and more, and how to manipulate the strokes and stretches to best benefit the client. When scheduling a massage, be certain your massage therapist is trained, educated, and registered, and you’ll get the most professional, competent massage.