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How to Prepare for a Professional Massage

Updated on January 4, 2013

There are a number of different reasons to receive a massage. These include but are not limited to:

  • Increased circulation
  • Decrease in stress
  • A better immune system
  • Improvement in mood

Plus, it also feels like you’re in heaven, which is an added bonus.

STOP! MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS!

There are a few different things that will prevent a person from being a recipient of a massage. In the biz, we call them contraindications.

If the person receiving the massage has any of the following, do not give them a massage:

  • Extreme High Blood Pressure
  • Thrombosis
  • Flu
  • Cancer
  • Varicose Veins (do not massage over the vein)
  • Pitted Edema
  • Unusual Fatigue
  • Any Communicable Diseases of the Skin
  • Acute Injury to the Area Being Massaged
  • Pregnancy (Unless you’re a professional that has been trained in pregnancy massage)

It is generally a good idea to avoid giving a person who is intoxicated or who has just taken any type of drug a massage because the improved circulation can at times amplify the affects of the intoxication.

Your Massage Tools

Now that the nitty gritty stuff is over we can talk about your station. If you want to give a professional massage, you need to have a good station with good supplies. A good painter would never work without good paints and a canvas, and a good massage practitioner would never work without good supplies.

  • Bed/Massage Table – You will definitely need something for them to lie down on. A bed is suitable but nowhere near as good as a good massage table. If you’re thinking about doing massage as a profession, I personally recommend stronglite. They’re sturdy and the face rests are easy to use. Make sure you adjust the table so that when you stand by it with arms resting, your fist is just one or two inches above the table.

    If you work with a bed, have the person lying towards you. You’ll probably have to do things in two sections where the person receiving the massage has to move intermittently so that both sides can be thoroughly worked on. Depending on the type of bed used will depend on how they will have to move. People using a twin sized bed will have to move the bed to the center of the room and ask their recipient to move from one side of the bed to the other. People using a queen or king sized bed will have to ask their recipients to turn towards them when changing sides. When massaging, you’ll be tempted to move your body in unusual positions rather than move them and disturb their relaxation. Don’t because it compromises your body mechanics, which can lead to injury. Your injury!

  • Oil/Lotion – This is a Swedish massage, the traditional Western massage that you see on television. A Swedish massage generally has the back exposed and uses lubrications such as oil or lotion. Make sure that the person you are giving the massage to is not allergic to any of the chemicals in the oil or lotion.

    If you want to use oil, you have a number of different kinds to choose from. Generally, most professional massage practitioners use natural oils rather than oils with funny names like “Fairy Magic Oil”, but don’t just use your kitchen oil. The reason behind this is that it generally is more cost effective and natural oils also tend to be very good for the skin. Here are three natural options to think about.
  1. Coconut oil – Don’t worry. The oil won’t make you smell like coconuts all day long. Coconut oil is actually my favorite type of oil. You can easily get it at the natural food section of most grocery stores. It generally comes in a thick clump of wax. Put what you need in the microwave and warm it up until it melts into a liquid. Then put it in a bottle and you’re ready to go. It’s very good for the skin and normally won’t stain your sheets.
  2. Jojoba oil – Made from wax is a good carrier for essential oils, which adds aromatherapy to your session. The oil also easily absorbs into the skin and has a very good shelf life.
  3. Almond oil – A favorite of many massage practitioners and a good alternative if your recipient is allergic to coconut oil. The oil is also easily absorbed.

  • Sheets – You’re going to want at least two sheets, one to cover the bed/table and the other to cover the person’s body. Of course, adding a comforter over the top sheet can feel much more comfortable and warmer. Just be sure to not spill oil or lotion onto your nice comforter. If you have a massage table with a face cradle, you’ll also need to cover that with either a face cradle cover or a pillowcase that is folded in half and then folded down on both sides so it looks like a pentagon with a space in the middle for the face.
  • Pillow/Headrest – Depending on whether or not you’re going to be using a massage table or not, you will need a pillow or headrest, so that the recipient doesn’t have to be face first into the bed or table. Breathing is normally very important to relaxation.
  • Pillow/Bolster – You will also need a firm pillow or bolster to rest beneath the ankles of your recipient.

Preparing Your Massage

Here are the steps to preparing for your massage.

  • Ready the Oil/Lotion – Make sure the oil is warm. Microwave it for less than a minute (or until the oil melts if you’re using coconut oil) and put it in an easily open able bottle or pump. If you use lotion, you don’t normally have the option to warm it up. Just make sure to have your hands warm and rub the lotion between them before applying it to the body. Cold lotion will make muscles tense rather than relax.
  • Ready the Sheets – Set the sheets, one for the bed and one for the client, and have them ready, so that the recipient can get undressed and easily get between them.
  • Positioning Your Client – If the recipient needs privacy, leave the room so they can take off their shirt and bra if they’re wearing one and get beneath the sheets. If this is just a back massage, the recipient doesn’t need to be fully unclothed. Make sure that the pants that they wear are comfortable to lie down in, like sweats or gym shorts. If the person receiving a massage has long hair, ask them to put it in a bun before you start as this will generally get caught in between your fingers when massaging their shoulders. Also make sure to explain how you want them to position themselves when getting underneath the sheets. If using a massage table, have them put their head into the face cradle with their stomach against the table and their back facing up. They can either let their arms dangle in front of them and off the front of the table, to their sides with their upper arm on the table and their forearm dangling off of the sides of the table, or they can lay them on their sides flat against the table. If using a bed, make sure their side is facing towards you, close to the edge of the bed with their arms crossed over a pillow and their head resting over their arms. You won’t have easy access to their shoulders, but the other alternatives is having them turn their heads to their sides, which can often times end with a relaxed back but sore neck.
  • Bolster their Ankles – When they’re ready for you to enter, come in and make sure their positioned correctly. Then raise or have them raise their ankles and put a bolster or firm pillow right beneath their ankles, under the sheets as well if you plan on using the bolster or pillow on someone else.
  • Draping the Sheets – Peel away the top sheet from the client, folding it so that it exposes their back. If they are wearing pants or underwear, pull them down just a little beneath their hip bone and gently tuck in the sheet into their underwear. If they are not wearing underwear, gently tuck in the sheet around the outsides of the hips.

Giving a massage can be a pleasurable and relaxing experience just like receiving one can be though I'm sure the recipient is much more grateful in the end. The key to giving a good massage is preparation. Both physical and mental. After you've finished setting up your work station, do a little bit of stretching and deep breaths. Once you're done, step up to their body and get to work.

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    • Shiley profile image

      Karen Shiley 4 years ago from Washington

      This is an interesting hub. Why would being pregnant prevent someone from being eligible for a massage?

    • anthonykz profile image
      Author

      Anthony Zullo 4 years ago from Lakewood, WA

      Thanks for the good question, Mrs. Shiley.

      While being pregnant isn't a contraindication by itself, I highly don't recommend people who aren't trained in pregnancy massage to try to give massages to pregnant women. The liability of harming the unborn isn't even worth the risk, especially in a woman's first trimester where a baby is most likely to miscarry if it's going to miscarry.

      There's also a lot of excess fluid, hyper flexibility, positioning, and the like that go with pregnancy massage. If you want to do some very light strokes on someone while their pregnant, it wouldn't be too big of a deal after the first trimester, but otherwise, I think it's better for a professional massage therapist to massage someone who is pregnant.

      Anyway, I hoped I answered your question.

      -Anthony

    • Shiley profile image

      Karen Shiley 4 years ago from Washington

      Thank you for the answer Anthony.

    • profile image

      Brook 2 years ago

      How does one go about laying on a message table? I've only had one message before and I am getting one tomorrow and the most awkward part of the entire thing is just laying on the table. I don't know why it's such an issue for me. I just don't know if i lay on the table properly. Usually the hardest part is the sheets.

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