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. Whether you're looking for pain relief or stress management (or a little of both), massage should bring greater wellness and a sense of ease to your life.
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 type 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 bodyworkers want you to be happy.
Don't assume that massage has to hurt to be helpful. Let go of that "no pain, no gain" idea — it's so 1980s. Actually, clenching your muscles from pain, anxiety or cold makes massage work less effective. Trust yourself to know what your body needs.
Give yourself time to enjoy the experience. 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. 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.
Drink plenty of water or herbal tea. When you get a deep-tissue massage, you may find that you may feel a little achy (or even nauseated) the next day if you aren't drinking enough water. But how much is enough? One common recommendation is that you divide your body 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. Combining stretching with massage can give you less pain, greater flexibility and less risk of muscle injury.
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. Eventually, manic lifestyles bring us stress-related health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and adrenal fatigue. When massage relaxes you into the "rest-and-digest" mode, it's helping your body establish a new sense of what's normal.