Shirl’s goal is for you to come to the Body|Mind & Spirit Massage Therapy studio relaxed and ready to enjoy your massage. She hopes that the information below answers any questions you may have and helps you to feel more comfortable with what to expect. Of course if your question is not answered below, please contact Shirl.
- When should I get a massage?
- When should I not get a massage?
- This is my first massage. What can I expect when I arrive?
- Does the gender of the therapist make a difference?
- What if I’m overweight or embarrassed about my body?
- What does a massage therapist’s license or certification mean?
- What happens during a massage?
- What parts of my body will be massaged?
- Do I have to be completely undressed?
- Do I have to use a towel or sheet as a drape?
- Can I talk during a massage?
- How often should I receive a massage?
- Will my massage hurt?
- What if my massage wasn’t quite what I wanted?
When should I get a massage?
Any time is a good time to get a massage. You don’t need to wait until you’re stressed or injured. Too often I see clients who wait until they reach this state to see me. Massage works wonders as preventive care for a person’s body and mind. Instead of waiting until your back hurts from overwork or stress, or the headaches that start at the back of your skull begin to pound, or the stress of every day life makes you want to pop your cork, get a massage before these things happen. A regular massage is a wonderful way to cope with stress, both physical and emotional, and to keep it from causing discomfort or harm to your body.
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When should I not get a massage?
There are several contraindications for receiving a massage. If you have any of the following conditions, you should NOT get a massage:
- Any type of infectious disease
- Systemic infections
- Severe cold
- Fracture, bleeding, burns or other acute injury
- Liver and kidney diseases
- Blood clot (unless you have a doctor’s written permission)
- Pregnancy-induced diabetes, toxemia, preeclampsia/eclampsia
- High blood pressure (unless under control with medication)
- Heart disease
- Open skin lesions or sores (therapist may work around them if localized)
The guidelines here are pretty straightforward. You don’t want the massage to make an underlying medical condition worse, and you don’t want to pass anything contagious to the massage therapist. If you’re unsure about whether a minor condition should prohibit you from getting a massage, call before your appointment. If you have a chronic medical condition, check with your doctor before proceeding on a course of massage therapy. For some illnesses, other bodywork modalities/techniques may work well.
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This is my first massage. What can I expect when I arrive?
At your initial visit, you will be asked to fill out a client intake form. Please arrive 5- 10 minutes prior to your appointment time or download the form ahead of time in order to fill it out before your session to bring with you. The information on this form provides the massage therapist with your name, address, and phone number and a place to list any underlying medical conditions. The therapist should be aware of any of these. Even if you have an allergy to something in the oil the therapist uses, you should list this. You will be asked at any subsequent visits about any new medical or physical conditions. If you’re not asked, volunteer that information if there is anything the therapist should know.
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Does the gender of the massage therapist make a difference?
The short answer is no. There is a perception that male therapists can give a deeper massage, and in many cases this is true, but not necessarily. The size and gender doesn’t always dictate the amount of pressure the therapist can deliver. In general, nothing about a therapist’s gender will give you a clue about the style or quality of the massage they give.
Many people are nervous about receiving a massage from one gender or the other. This is a personal choice. While no professional wants their services refused based upon their gender, they also realize that if you’re too nervous about who is giving you the massage, then you won’t be able to relax and enjoy it.
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What if I’m overweight or embarrassed about my body?
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard someone say they’d get a massage if they lost weight first or didn’t have that cellulite on the back of their thighs. Don’t let this stop you. You’re denying yourself quite a pleasurable experience.
Massage therapists see bodies in every imaginable shape and size, from young to old, and they’re not there trying to judge your physique or ogle your body. They’re professionals who have found massage to be a wonderful gift to give to men and women alike, regardless of age and weight, and are proud of what they can offer to people in need of help or just wanting to enjoy the sense of touch.
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What does a massage therapist’s license or certification mean?
A license means that a massage therapist has met the requirements and paid the fee to legally practice massage in that area. In some places the massage is regulated by the state, others are regulated by the town or municipality. Many places have no licensing requirements. To get a license, a massage therapist will usually have to have a minimum number hours of training at an accredited or accepted school or training center. This varies widely, from 100 hours in some places to over 1000 hours in others. If a jurisdiction requires licensing, it also means that a set of laws governing massage exist.
Certification means that the therapist has successfully passed a specific course or test and been granted a certificate to bear out that fact. This may range from courses in pregnancy and neo-natal massage, to different modalities like Rolfing or Hellerwork. There is also a written national certification test for massage therapists.
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What happens during a massage?
When you first arrive at the massage therapist’s studio or office, you’ll be asked to fill out a client intake form. This will give the therapist the personal information about you that will guide them to give you the style of massage most appropriate for you. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything which you’re unsure, or any concerns you might have. If you’re expecting something in particular from the massage, make sure this is told to the therapist. For example, if you’ve been having a lot of tightness in your right shoulder, and you’d like some extra attention given to it, tell the therapist. If you prefer a lighter or deeper massage, make that preference known. The massage therapist will discover your tight and sore areas during the massage, and will prioritize the time spent on these areas, and may do less work on areas that don’t need as much attention. Letting the therapist know ahead of time about these problem areas, lets them prepare to spend some extra time there.
Once you’ve finished with the intake, the massage therapist will give you some privacy to get undressed and get on the massage table. A drape, either a sheet or towel, should be provided. The therapist should have advised you to start the massage lying on your stomach or on your back. If you’re to start on your stomach, there will be a cushioned doughnut-shaped device at one end of the table. This is a face rest, and you should place your face in there. This allows you to be face down, and keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed. If you lay your head on the table and turn it to one side, the muscles in your neck and shoulders won’t be in their relaxed state and won’t be able to receive the best benefits of the massage.
There may also be a pillow or bolster on the table. A bolster is a padded, cylindrical device. These are to be used for your ankles and knees. If you’re lying face down, the pillow or bolster goes under your ankles, so you’re not hyperextending your feet while lying that way for an extended period of time. If you’re lying on your back, it goes under the knees to prevent any hyperextension of your knee joint.
Once you’re undressed and under the drape, the therapist will come back into the room. For the most part, your work is done, and all you have to do is relax and enjoy. The therapist will undrape the section of the body that they will work on first, and apply a lubricant, either oil or lotion, to the skin. They will use a variety of strokes, some rubbing, kneading, vibration, percussion, whatever they think will work best for your muscles. Stretching, rocking, or pressure point work may all be added. If the therapist gives you directions for slow exhales, just follow along. If they stretch or rotate any joint, don’t try to help. Just stay as relaxed and limp as you can and let the therapist move that part of your body.
Every therapist has their own style of massage, strokes they like to use on different parts of the body, and prefer to work on different areas of the body in a particular order. One therapist may start you on your stomach and begin the massage with your back. Another may start you on your back and begin with your feet. So for a first visit with any massage therapist, don’t be alarmed if their style and direction is different from another therapist you’ve seen.
When the therapist finishes with one area of the body, they will put the drape back over that part, and undrape the next section to be massaged. At some point, you may be asked to roll over under the drape, and the therapist will continue with the other side of the body. When the massage is over, you’ll be left in private to get dressed again. If a towel was used for a drape, you can wipe off any excess oil with it. The therapist will return, and this is a good time to tell them how you feel, if you have any concerns, settle the bill, and make your next appointment.
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What parts of my body will be massaged?
This will vary from therapist to therapist. The one area you can be assured that won’t receive any stimulation will be the genitals. Different therapists may skip other areas of the body. Some work only on the back side of the body. Some won’t work on the buttocks or inner thighs. Some skip the abdomen. Some won’t work anywhere in the chest area of a woman. If one area of the body takes a lot longer than expected to massage, the therapist may skip other areas of the body to finish within the allotted time.
There are different reasons why some massage therapists skip different areas of the body. For some it may just allow them to concentrate on areas of the body that are typically the areas that need the most work. They would rather give fuller attention to these areas and not do areas that usually are not a problem for most people. If you would prefer these areas to receive some massage, you can ask the therapist to do so, and they may agree.
Some therapists will ask you during the intake if you have any areas of your body that you would prefer not to be massaged. This may be verbal or you might have to check off areas of the body on a chart on the intake form. The therapist will respect your wishes.
Should you request that any part of your body not be massaged? This is another area where the answer is not so easy. A person getting massaged should be relaxed. If anything during the massage causes them to tighten their muscles, than the benefits from the massage won’t be obtained. On the other hand, the body is one interconnected organism. Even though you may feel discomfort in one part of your body before a massage, the cause of the problem may rest in a different area of the body. Overcompensation for an ache or nagging injury by limping, walking differently, or carrying yourself other than your normal way will cause muscles throughout the body to suffer. To reap the most benefits from a massage, all areas should be addressed.
As a general rule, just try to stay relaxed as much as possible during a massage. If it’s your first massage, and you suddenly find yourself nervous as the therapist moves to a new area, just try to make your mind float and enjoy the feeling of having the stress worked out the muscles there. As you see more of the therapist in future visits, your nervousness about these areas will probably go away pretty quickly as you come to trust their strokes and professional approach to their work.
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Do I have to be completely undressed?
You should undress to your comfort level. The massage therapist will work around the clothes left on the best they can. You should realize that this may mean that certain areas of the body may not be massaged at all, or may only receive minimal work there. I suggest to my clients that they be completely undressed under the drape, but they should leave on whatever clothes are necessary for them to be relaxed during the massage. If removing all your clothes makes you too nervous and unable to relax, then receiving a massage that way won’t allow you to obtain the optimal benefits from it.
The pieces of clothing left on the most often are either panties or boxer shorts. Certain styles of panties will allow access to most muscles in the buttocks if they are moved slightly. Boxers and panties that come over the bottom of the buttocks usually mean that no work will be done in that area. Some women wear thong panties to a massage. It allows the therapist access to all of the major buttock muscles, and also allows them the comfort and modesty they prefer.
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Do I have to use a towel or sheet as a drape?
Yes, in the State of Delaware it is part of the regulated laws that the genitals need to be covered. As long as this requirement is met then the draping options can be discussed with your therapist ahead of time. Depending on the temperature in the room, minimal draping may feel more comfortable and less bulky. The majority of clients go with sheet draping which can be adjusted to expose appropriate areas of the body in order to achieve an optimum comfort level. The key to all facets of massage is relaxation, and if the client or the therapist is uncomfortable, the benefits of the massage will be lost.
One more draping issue again concerns a woman’s breasts. When a woman is lying on her back, and the therapist is ready to work on her abdominal muscles, lowering the drape to expose the stomach also exposes the breasts. This is easily remedied by providing a second towel to cover the breasts. Many therapists will insist on this second towel to cover the breasts, for either their own comfort level, or to ensure the client’s comfort level. Others will offer the option to the woman to use the second towel to cover their breasts and leave the choice up to them.
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Can I talk during a massage?
The key to a massage is relaxation and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience. Many therapists will discourage you from talking during the massage. They want you to relax, to just let your mind float free, and let the massage transport you to an almost subconscious bliss. It’s not uncommon for many people to be more relaxed talking. After all, they’re lying undressed on a table with a stranger touching their skin. Talking makes the therapist become more human and personal to them, and having this interaction makes it easier for them to place their trust in the therapist, and therefore make it easier for them to relax. Many clients talk in the initial stages of a massage, and as the massage progresses, they slip farther into a state of total relaxation and become quiet.
There are times when you should speak up during a massage. If anything makes you uncomfortable, bring it to the therapist’s attention. If you’re too cold or too hot, the room is too bright and hard on your eyes, or if you prefer the strokes to be deeper or lighter, mention it to the therapist. Feel free to speak up, if something about the massage isn’t working for you.
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How often should I receive a massage?
The answer here depends on the reasons for receiving the massage. If a client comes for some injury relief, and to relieve chronic tightness that is interfering with their daily lives in some way, weekly sessions may be necessary for a while to build on each session’s improvement in their relief and healing. For those who use massage as preventive care and managing the daily stress in their lives, once a month may work for them. I feel that a maximum of three weeks between massages works best for preventive care. For most people, the frequency of the massages they receive is limited by their pocketbook. Refer to my Standing Appointment Discount to see how I reward people for dedication to taking care of their bodies on a regular basis. It’s an unfortunate fact, but once many people realize the benefits it provides them, and the pleasure they receive from it, they find a way to incorporate a regular session into their budget.
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Will my massage hurt?
That depends on the type of massage and the depth of the strokes. A light massage that doesn’t probe very deep into muscles shouldn’t hurt. At the same time, the light massage won’t be able to work out any stress that’s deep within those muscles. A muscle that is relaxed will be supple and soft and won’t hurt when rubbed. Muscles that are tight, and in many cases have been chronically tight for a long time, may have that “good hurt” feeling with a deeper massage. Think of that “good hurt” as the feeling you get when you stretch a sore muscle during exercise or a yawn. Muscles can be very sore from overuse or tightness, and that good hurt can become painful. A sharp pain may indicate a muscle that has been injured and has some sort of inflammation. In this case, you don’t want the deep work to continue in this area. A deep massage with tight muscles may leave some residual soreness the next day.
Everybody has different thresholds of pain. The depth of a stroke may not be deep enough for one person’s liking and may cause pain for another. Some people want the massage as deep as possible regardless of the soreness. Others want something much lighter, more sensual and pleasing, to help them relax rather than deeper work that might be sore. So make your preference known to the therapist, and give feedback at any time during a massage that the depth of the strokes is more than you’d like.
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What if my massage wasn’t quite what I wanted?
Every massage therapist has their own style, their own approach to massage, the strokes they like to use, and the depth they like to work. Some prefer a more clinical approach, some a more personal approach. Not every client clicks with every massage therapist. The key is to find one who can deliver the type of massage you like best. When you find one you like, stick with them and sing their praises. The best way to find a therapist is through personal recommendations from friends and family. You can get a good sense of the therapist’s style from them, and know how well it matches your expectations before you visit them. Also, be sure to communicate with the therapist if the techniques should be adjusted to meet your needs. A good therapist should be able to make that adjustment during the massage. I always say that my first massage with a client is a “get to know you session; I’m getting to know your body and you are getting to know my touch.” If a therapist doesn’t get everything exactly right the first time then it might be worth giving him/her a second chance to fine tune things according to your wishes. If you still feel that the therapist isn’t meeting your needs, then it is best to look for someone else. Not everyone is a match made in heaven.