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Getting the Most out of your Massage

Updated on November 27, 2014
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Erin has been a massage therapist since 2010, when she graduated from Cortiva Institute in Chicago. She currently lives in Illinois.


A good massage therapist can work wonders on a tired, achy, stressed out body. But many clients do not seem to realize that there is a great deal they can do themselves to ensure that they get as much out of their treatment as they possibly can. While your therapist is the one with the knowledge of anatomy and the techniques in their toolbox, it does not change the fact that yours is the body being worked on. Besides that, I have found many clients exhibit bad habits in the session room that besides being unpleasant and sometimes disrespectful, are surely preventing them from experiencing the full benefit of the service they have paid a great deal for. I expect most of them do not realize the disservice they are doing to themselves, but it is sometimes mind-boggling and disappointing that clients would pay so much and then not get to experience the full benefit.

With that in mind, I decided to lay out some tips with regards to some of the most common ways I see clients cheating themselves.

1. Be Committed

Be committed to your treatment. Whether you are just coming in to relax, or if you are suffering from a particular problem, commit to it, and be prepared to devote your time to it. Have at least a short-term goal in mind. Again, even if that short-term goal is just to relax, that is better than just lying on the table and waiting for the therapist to magically relax you. We're good, but if you are expecting to relax without letting go yourself, then it isn't going to work.

Another thing to understand about being committed to your massage is that the session does not begin when the therapist first lays hands on you. It begins the moment the therapist greets you in the waiting area. From that moment, she is watching you, assessing your posture and gait, and figuring out how best to begin treating you. The five minutes before she steps out to let you get undressed are vital as well. Your therapist will ask you about what is going on with your body, and what you would like to accomplish with your massage. If you filled out an intake form, she may go over that with you. She may perform some assessment tests, or ask you to move a particular way. Do not get impatient with the intake. Your therapist just wants to make sure she treats you properly, and that she does not miss any possible contraindications. It is all for your own safety and well-being.

2. Be On Time

Be respectful of your therapist's time. Chances are you are not their only client of the day, and when you are late, it forces them either to run behind, or to cut your treatment short. Most therapists will choose the former, rather than shortchange the next client.

3. Turn Off Your Phone

A ringing cell phone is extremely distracting to your therapist. And to you, whether or not you realize it. It can also be disturbing to clients in other rooms. Do not attempt to answer any calls during your session. Be present and mindful during your treatment.

4. Wait to Undress

Do not start undressing until after your therapist has left the room. In order to protect their reputations and be in compliance with professional ethical codes, a massage therapist must maintain strict boundaries. Undressing before they've left pushes on those boundaries, and can damage your relationship with your therapist if you are not careful.

When you undress, remove all jewelry, including necklaces, rings, bracelets, and anklets. Such items can get in the way of a therapist's hands.

Upon undressing, lie down on the table, either face up or down, depending on what the therapist has told you, and get under the sheet. Cover yourself entirely. Just like waiting to undress, covering yourself with the sheet is about respecting the therapist's boundaries.

5. Avoid Small Talk

Small talk and personal questions distract your therapist from treating you, and they distract you from healing. Furthermore, certain questions can cross boundaries into uncomfortable territory. Remember that your massage therapist is not the same as a psychotherapist, nor is he a buddy to chat with an unload on. Avoid discussing your personal problems during your session. Also, avoid any questions or comments about your therapist's appearance or relationship status. A therapist who feels uncomfortable with a client is well within his rights to end the session early. That being said...

6. Communicate

Your therapist will check in with you from time to time during your session, but the moment something does not feel right, speak up. If you have questions about the treatment, ask them. Your therapist will not be offended if you ask her to change her touch. She would rather you tell her right away than leave feeling dissatisfied.

Aside from the therapist's touch, please let her know immediately if anything else is making you uncomfortable. If the music is too loud or soft, let her know. If you are too warm or cold, let her know.

7. Stay engaged until the end

When the massage is over, the therapist will step outside so you can get dressed. There is no need to rush, but don't dawdle, either. Your therapist will need plenty of time to change the room before his next client.

Also, similar to the session beginning when you are greeted by your therapist, it does not end until your therapist either drops you off to pay at the front desk, or personally takes your payment if he is seeing you as a private client. Do not assume you can turn your phone back on right away and return any calls you missed during your session. Your therapist may want to share his findings with you and suggest some exercises or self-care to take home with you. Speaking of which, if your therapist recommends an exercise, give it a try. Don't do anything that doesn't feel right or causes pain, but don't dismiss your therapist's advice out of hand.

8. When in doubt, leave a tip

The general rule of thumb is that if you receive your massage in a spa owned by someone who is not your therapist, leave a tip. Those therapists are likely working on commission, and depend on tips to supplement their income. However, if you receive a massage from a therapist who owns their own business, there is no need to tip. A self-employed therapist will keep their prices high enough to cover their expenses. When it comes to tipping, somewhere between $10 and $20 is typical, and some spas will have a gratuity menu on display as a guide. If you do not know whether or not you should leave a tip, just ask.


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    • RPM Myotherapy profile image

      RPM Myotherapy 3 years ago

      This is really great for clients to read. One of the most important things in massage is communication, if the practitioner doesn't know they're using too much or too little pressure they won't know to make a change.

      When possible, arriving a few minutes before your scheduled appointment time can allow you to relax and get the most out of your session. It places extra stress on the practitioner if you're running late and they have someone booked straight after you.

    • CharlineClerk profile image

      Charline Clerk 3 years ago from London, United Kingdom


      Not bad at all!