No matter where you go for massage treatments, there are some general guidelines that can help you get the maximum comfort and therapeutic benefit from your sessions.
Feel free to speak up about what would make you more comfortable. Remember, this is your session. When massage clients are dissatisfied, it's often over something that the therapist easily could have adjusted — the amount of pressure applied, the volume of the music, that sort of thing. If you're chilly, ask for a blanket. Massage therapists try to be alert to what you need, but sometimes they need you to say something. Good therapists want you to be happy. They want you to tell all your friends that you had a great massage, and they want you to come back!
Don't assume that massage has to hurt to relieve your chronic aches. Let go of that "no pain, no gain" idea — it's so 1980s. Some people think they have to suffer if they want to get pain relief, but that's simply not true. Actually, clenching your muscles from pain, anxiety or cold makes massage work less effective. Each person knows what amount of pressure feels therapeutic. If the pressure feels too heavy or too light, mention this to your therapist. Trust yourself to know what your body needs.
Give yourself time to enjoy the experience. Try to arrange your schedule so you're not rushing to show up on time. Turn off the cell phone. Forget your worries, if only for a little while. And don't think you need to chitchat with your massage therapist — actually, people tend to relax more deeply and have more therapeutic experiences when they stop thinking so much and just let themselves be.
Pare down. Consider leaving your jewelry at home so you won't need to take it off when you arrive for your massage.
Understand that if you prefer not to take off certain clothing, that's okay. Some bodywork is best performed with the client fully undressed beneath the sheet, but there are techniques that can be performed with the client fully clothed. A good massage therapist is flexible enough to provide the treatment that's appropriate for you. After receiving their first massage, most people become less self-conscious because they realize that they are covered with a sheet (and possibly a blanket as well), and the only exposed skin is the section that is being treated at that moment. A professional massage should feel safe and nurturing, yet impersonal in a medical sort of way.
Be comfortable in your own skin. Don't worry if you have cellulite or haven't shaved your legs lately. Understand that your massage therapist has worked with lots of bodies and isn't judging yours. Besides, your body is just a vehicle for your soul to travel around in. Does it really matter if you're operating an older model, or if the fender is dented a bit?
Drink plenty of water or herbal tea. When you get a deep-tissue massage, you may find that your muscles can feel a little tender the next day when you aren't drinking enough water. But how much is enough? One common recommendation is that you divide your weight in half, then drink that many ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, your body needs roughly 90 ounces of water every day to function smoothly.
Take time to stretch. Just in general. Stretch while you're watching TV, stretch while you're standing in line at the store. Both stretching and massage can lead to less pain, greater flexibility and less risk of muscle injury. Combining stretching with massage will maximize your benefits, loosening your muscles while increasing blood circulation.
Let your stomach rumble. It's common to hear your belly growl during a massage, even when you're aren't hungry. Strange as it may seem, a rumbling stomach is a sign to your therapist that you have relaxed well. Americans spend far too much time in the sympathetic "fight-or-flight" mode, running on coffee and sugar and sheer grit and adrenaline, even though that's not healthy for our bodies over the long haul. When massage relaxes you into the "rest-and-digest" mode, it's lowering your blood pressure, reducing your stress level and helping your body create a new sense of what's normal. Another excellent sign is snoring: Don't be embarrassed if you snooze during a massage, because it's a compliment to your therapist. Slipping into momentary periods of sleep means you have achieved a parasympathetic state in which your body can rest deeply and well.