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How to Enjoy a Massage

Updated on January 11, 2023
Pummeling is one of many techniques used in Swedish massage.
Pummeling is one of many techniques used in Swedish massage. | Source

It’s been a while since I’ve been in massage school, but my time there is taught me a few things about the best way to enjoy a massage.


Drinking enough water is important in everyday life in staying well hydrated. However, it’s also important to drink more water than usual in the weeks before massage.

Since the therapist will break up lactic acid in the muscles, you’ll probably experience soreness after and it’s possible to experience tenderness as the massages progresses. Drinking water before hand will help reduce soreness post massage, because your body will already be working at filtering the acid and other toxins from your bloodstream.

After the massage, be sure to drink water, too. This will help reduce any soreness and help improve your circulation.

Use the Bathroom

Before your massage, use the bathroom. Most full body massages take half hour to an hour, and some of them involve stretching, depending on the type that you’re going for.

A full bladder gets very uncomfortable when you’re on your stomach and the therapist is working on your back, after all. The same can be said, if you are going for shiatsu, which involves a great deal of stretching, assisted by a therapist.

The most important thing during the massage is your comfort.

Medication, Vitamins and Supplements

Before you go to your appointment, list out whatever medications, vitamins and supplements you’re on. This is because many medications can affect your sensitivity to pain. If you’re on muscle relaxants, narcotics, or other types of medications, you won’t necessarily feel the pressure that the therapist is exerting and they may inadvertently hurt you because of that.

By the same token, blood thinners can increase your chances of bruising. A good therapist will ask you about this in the starting interview, so they can accommodate both what sort of oil they use and the pressure throughout the massage.

Skin Allergies

If you have any severe skin sensitivities or allergies, make sure your therapist knows.

Some people don’t handle certain detergents well. Since many types of massages, like Swedish, involve skin contact with sheets, your therapist will need to know that ahead of time so they can avoid inadvertently causing an allergic reaction.

Most therapists will change the sheets between clients anyway for hygienic reasons, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

The same goes for the choice of oils. If you therapist is using blended massage oils with essential oils in addition to the basic olive oil, vegetable or sunflower seed oil, you run the risk of a bad reaction if they use the wrong blend.

The simple way to avoid this is to request a patch test before the massage takes place as well as providing the list of known allergies.

Questions and Feedback

If you have any questions or concerns, either interview the therapist before you make your appointment, or bring your questions with you to address before the massage. This is especially important if you have never had a massage before, or haven’t taken part in the method therapist practices.

Don’t be afraid to let the therapist know if anything they do cause you discomfort or pain. We all have different thresholds for pain, and by the same token, different sensitivity to pressure.

For example, although I am personally physically small, I need more pressure to get the most out of a massage than many people who happen to be larger than I am.

Although many people love having their shoulders worked on, sunburn is a good reason to ask your therapist to avoid the area.
Although many people love having their shoulders worked on, sunburn is a good reason to ask your therapist to avoid the area. | Source

Boundaries and Problem Areas

During the course of the pre-massage interview, the therapist will ask you about any areas you’d like them to stay away from. This can include acute injuries, sensitive spots or places you are extremely insecure about.

One of the greatest things about therapeutic massage is that it is not an invasive procedure. Most therapists will respect your boundaries so long as you make them known before hand.

Conversely, let them know which areas you would like them to concentrate on.

Many women carry their stress in their upper back and shoulders, and therefore want that area worked on. The muscle tension reflects their daily stress, and when the tension is alleviated through massage, the stress is usually at least a little easier to handle.

Often, the therapist will be able to feel problem areas and will instinctively attend the area to loosen tight knots.

Different Types of Massage

Different types of massage will provide different types of experiences. If you go to a spa for a head neck massage, there focus will be on relaxation, where is if you go to a medical clinic, they will focus on alleviating whatever structural problem you happen to be happening.

Asked about any complementary therapies they may offer as well. In some places, aromatherapy is common, as is Reiki and other energy healing methods. Energy healing can cross into the issues of religious beliefs as well. If you have any philosophical arguments against that type of feeling, you can request that the therapist not do it.

Learning about how the various methods work, why they work that way, and the philosophies behind them will help alleviate nerves before hand and make the experience more relaxing.

Different Types of Massage

Common Name
What it's used for
What to know
Swedish Massage
Therapy and Relaxation
Clothing is removed and essential oil is involved.
Sports Massage
Warming and cooling muscles. Also sometimes used immediately after minor injury.
Usually very brisk paced, and concentrated on one part of the body per session. Clothing remains on, depending on body part worked on.
Therapy and Relaxation
Based in Chinese medicine. Clothing remains on, but session is often carried out on a pad instead of a table. Almost always involves therapist assisted stretching.
Pregnancy Massage
Geared towards alleviating the discomforts of pregnancy
Pressure is usually very light, and the oils used are usually very mild. The therapist may stay away from the ankles due to a point which initiates labor.
Do you know where your towel is? The guys in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had this step down pat.
Do you know where your towel is? The guys in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had this step down pat. | Source

What to Bring With You

These are a few common sense items to bring with you to your massage.

  • Towel
    If you are going in for a Swedish, pregnancy massage, or any other massage that involves using oil, you may want to bring a towel with you. The therapist may provide one to dry off a little with, but it’s still a good idea to drape your own around your neck because it’s hard to get oil out of your hair without taking a full shower.

    This will prevent staining of your collars, and if you drape it over the headrest of your car seat, you’ll prevent staining that.

  • Change of Clothing
    If you’re going directly into the massage therapist from work or school, bring a change of clothing. Oils can be rough on dress casual clothing, and if you’re going in for something like shiatsu, you’ll want a looser change of clothing for that.

    The same goes for if you’re going in during lunch or before work. You’ll be more comfortable, and your clothing will thank you for it.
  • Hair Brush
    Your hair will probably get mussed up during the session. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s still a good idea to bring a brush and whatever hair accessories you feel you may need for after the massage.

  • Makeup
    If you wear makeup, bring it with you for after the massage, especially if you’re getting your face worked on. Your therapist may ask you to remove whatever makeup you’re wearing before hand, but if not, it’s possible for what you’re wearing to get smudged.

    It’s usually a good idea to remove makeup before hand, anyway.
  • Water Bottle
    This goes along with my first point of drinking enough water after your massage. This way, you can take your water on the go with you.

Massage should be a soothing and therapeutic experience. Although things can go wrong, you can reduce the likelihood of that, by following the above pointers.

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