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Massage Basics

So it’s your first massage. What can you expect? This article will describe the basics of what to expect from the time you walk in the door to the time you walk out. If you’ve never had a massage before it can be intimidating. I remember getting my first massage and feeling completely overwhelmed. I didn’t understand the protocol or what to expect before, during, or after the session. To get over the first massage jitters and have you feeling prepared for your session, we will cover everything from showing up at the office to getting home and relaxing post. 

Step one: know where you’re going! Before you even leave your house, get directions ahead of time and check traffic patterns so you can be stress free going into your massage. There is nothing worse than fighting through traffic to get to your massage only to realize you don’t know how to find the office once you’re there! Half the battle is settling down and relaxing. Make your life easier by knowing where you’re going so you don’t get all amped up before you even get on the table. 

Leave yourself a little extra time on your first appointment. You’ll have to fill out a medical intake form and you’ll want to talk to your therapist before-hand about any issues that are currently going on with you. Give yourself extra time to get these things done so you don’t have to cut into your massage time!

OK, so you’re in the office, you’ve talked to your therapist, and you have a plan for your massage. Now they just told you to get “undressed to your comfort level” and that they’ll knock before they come back in the room. “Uhhhh, my comfort level? What does that mean?”

It means just that. When you get a massage your therapist can always work through clothes. Compressions through clothing or a blanket can be extremely effective. Fewer layers, however, will allow your therapist to employ specific massage techniques that they would not be able to perform through clothing. Many massage therapists (myself included) will use an oil or cream to glide across our client’s skin. This allows us to deeply affect the muscles underneath without stretching or pulling the skin on the surface. 

So if you’re hesitant to completely undress, you can certainly leave on your underwear. If you have a bra on, you can always slip the straps down by your sides so your therapist can work the shoulders and neck unencumbered. Keep in mind that massage therapists must follow a draping protocol. This means that they will only uncover the part of the body they are working on. This keeps both client and therapist comfortable during the session. A final note here. If you have any resistance to removing any article of clothing, just leave it on! You want to be comfortable during your session. Worrying about what you’re wearing the entire time will not leave you feeling refreshed and it will not allow you to relax your muscles so they can get the full benefit of the session. 

So now that you’ve made it under the linens and blanket, you can finally begin to relax. Once you’re settled, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to settle your body and your mind. Use this time before the therapist returns to begin the process of allowing your muscles to relax. Get a baseline for how your body is feeling and begin to release any tension you are holding.

Once your therapist comes back in the room and the massage begins, do not feel the need to “help” by moving your head or your limbs. You are not helping. You are tightening up muscles that we want to loosen up. Just let yourself be dead weight. It is much more helpful to allow yourself to completely relax so the therapist can work deeply into your muscles with relative ease. 

Don’t expect your therapist to be a mind reader. Communicate about what you want out of your massage. If they are just missing the spot you need worked out, let them know! If you want more or less pressure, let them know. Again, the idea is to tailor the session to your needs. As you continue to work with the same therapist they will begin to know your body and work with you with little to no communication. To get to that point, however, it takes a little communication up front. Be open and expect some back and forth your first couple of sessions. A final note here… don’t expect the session to start out deep tissue. A good therapist will spend some time warming up your muscles so they can work their way to deeper layers with less effort for them and less pain for you. As they say, patience is a virtue.

Finally, remember to breath. Easy, steady breathing may help your body relax and your muscles soften. Just let yourself drift. When the massage is over, take a few breaths after your therapist has left the room. There’s no need to rush off the table. Slowly redress and let your body ease its way back into the world. Drink plenty of water and fluids throughout the rest of the day and take it easy! Enjoy the new found freedom in your body and mind.

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