So, you’ve decided you want to book in a massage, but you’ve never had one, and don’t know where to start? (Or you have lots of massage, but wonder if there’s anything you can do before you come in to get more out of your treatment?) There are a few things to think about, or keep in mind before having a massage treatment. It can be the difference between having a fantastic experience or never wanting to go through it again. That sounds extreme, to those who love their regular treatments. But for those who have never had a massage, and may be worried or nervous about undressing and having a stranger work on their body, not knowing what to expect, or having a horrible first experience, can stop them from ever trying again.
Yup, that’s right, you need to do some homework. There are so many types of massage and body work out there, you need to have an idea of what you’re looking for. Are you looking for relaxation, do you have an injury, are there ongoing health or pain issues that you’re dealing with? Are you looking for a straight relaxation massage or a deep tissue massage? Do you want to try Bowen, or Shiatsu, or Manual Lymphatic Drainage? Are you more inclined to Reiki or Crystal Massage? There really is something for everyone out there in the world of massage. Have a look at the different massage therapists in your area and find out what they offer. You can look at websites, email them or call and ask what type of massage therapy is offered. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find out what you need. Tell the therapist (or their receptionist if they have one), what you’re hoping to gain from your massage and they can help guide you to what you should book in for. No point booking in for a remedial deep tissue massage if you were looking for a relaxing aromatherapy experience. Sometimes you might find a clinic or practitioner that can offer a range treatments, but sometimes you might have to speak to a few people before you find what you’re looking for. For example, being a remedial massage therapist, I can range from doing a more gentle relaxation massage (using flat handed and kneading techniques), to intense deep tissue (using trigger points and stripping out the muscles). However, if someone is looking for Bowen therapy, I would recommend they book in with a colleague of mine who has studied this form of treatment.
Making an appointment (and when to reschedule):
When it comes to making an appointment, think about the best time for you. Ideally you should try to make an appointment at a time when you’re not rushing to get there (give yourself time to account for traffic), and at a time when you can go home and relax afterwards (it’s not a great idea to be rushing off to another appointment, to work or even a social event).
It’s also important to think about changing your appointment sometimes. If you are sick (particularly if you have a fever) it’s not a good idea to have a massage. Apart from the fact that your therapist doesn’t want to get sick, getting a massage can actually make you feel worse. Your circulation will be increased, including your lymphatic system. When you’re sick, your lymphatic system is already working harder to try and get rid of the infection and cleanse the body. The act of massage, also pushing it to work harder, will increase the aches, fever and general yucky feeling. It is believed that massage will help shorten the duration of an illness (particularly colds and flu), because it is assisting the lymphatic system to move more. This can be a good thing, however, you still have to decide if feeling even worse for a few days is worth it.
You might also need to change an appointment if you have a skin irritation or rash. This does depend on what caused it and where it is. Eczema, for example, can actually be helped with gentle massage (as long as the skin isn’t cracked or scabbed). However a contagious rash (or any contagious condition) should not be massaged – both to protect the therapist and yourself, no-one wants a problem spreading or getting worse. That being said, if the skin irritation is localised to one area (legs for example), it is possible to continue with massage and avoid that area, if you’re happy with that.
If you need to change your appointment (for any reason), always, always, always call your massage therapist. It’s common courtesy – after all, if your therapist was sick, or had an emergency come up, you would want them to let you know wouldn’t you? While it helps to give as much notice as you can (and some places have a 24 hour cancelation policy), we are all human and sometimes unexpected things happen. I once had a client leave me a message to apologise that she couldn’t make it in for her pregnancy massage because she had gone into labour – of course I told her that she had nothing at all to apologise for and let her know she was more than welcome to call back whenever she was ready (after she had finished creating life!) While I would completely understand, in this case, if her massage appointment was the last thing on her mind, it’s a good illustration that a quick message to say you wont be there helps the person waiting on your arrival. If done in a timely way, someone who was waiting for an appointment could be slotted in or the day can be organised in a different way. Calling, rather than just not showing up, also means you have the chance to rebook, if you know when you’ll be free next.
When the day of your appointment does roll around, think a little about what you wear. Loose, comfortable clothing is a good idea. Remember that you will have to take off most of your clothes, depending on what areas you are having massaged, so lots of layers with lots of buttons and zips and clips, is probably not going to be the best option. Wearing your favourite comfy track pants and t-shirt (for example) is a great idea, and it means you’ll be nice and comfortable going home too. After all you’re having a massage, not going to a fashion parade, so comfort is the number one priority. Many people come to their appointment straight from work, so a good idea is to bring your trackies with you to change into after you get off the table. I am often amazed at the look of bliss I see when clients are in their most comfortable clothes before walking out the door…and even a little jealous!
Also, where possible, do remember to wear underwear…this might sound a little odd to some people (and even a little obvious), but I have had quite a few people come in who just don’t usually wear any. And that is ok – a good massage therapist always uses good draping techniques. This means that only the part of the body being worked on is uncovered, and everything else is covered up (warm and modest). However, it is more comfortable for everyone is there is something to tuck the towel into to stop it moving around.
Go to the Loo:
Again, it sounds pretty obvious and straight forward, but still a good tip. Give yourself enough time when you arrive to go and find where the toilet is (if it’s a new place you’re going to). Since massage stimulates circulation and digestion, it can increase your need to go. And there is nothing worse than having someone press on your lower back or abdominals when you have a full bladder!
Give yourself time:
If this is the first time you’ve been to this massage therapist, you will need to fill in a history form. This is a requirement of therapists who have provider numbers for health insurance, as part of their paperwork. Even places that offer forms of massage not covered by health insurance may ask you to fill one out (and most do). It helps the massage therapist to know a little bit more about you, what you’re hoping to get out of the treatment and what things they need to lookout for or avoid. So if you’re heading somewhere new, arrive 15-20 minutes early.
If you’re returning to the same place regularly, still aim to be there 5-10 minutes early. This means you have time to find parking, go to the toilet, and start to unwind and relax. There is nothing worse then running in to your appointment, late, frazzled, stressed and tense – not a good way to start relaxing. There are some places that will cut your treatment short if you are late – after all, there may be people after you, or somewhere the therapist needs to be, so your appointment time is what has been set aside, if you use it up by not being there, others shouldn’t have to suffer. Again, we are all human, and sometimes, unavoidable things happen – you missed the train, the bus was cancelled, traffic was terrible. If it is safe to do so, you could contact your therapist to let them know you’re running late and most will do what they can to accommodate you. We rely on our clients being happy and wanting to come back, and we are human too, and have these things happen to us. Even a simple apology for running late goes a long way (rather than an expectation that you should get what you want even if you turned up 40 minutes late…it’s happened, trust me)
Don’t eat before hand:
Having a big meal right before your massage is not a great idea. Again, remember that you will have someone pressing on your back (and maybe even your stomach), so if you’re tummy is full, that’s really not going to be comfortable. It is a good idea to have a light snack about an hour before your massage, to make sure you’re not ravenously hungry during and after your massage though.
Talk to your Therapist:
Before you get on the table, it’s important to talk to the massage therapist about why you’re there and what you’re hoping to get from the treatment. An idea about your medical history is important. Surgeries, on going issues, chronic illness or pain, pregnancy, car accidents, and broken bones are all important (and that’s not an exhaustive list). They also need to know any allergies that might affect the massage – especially if there might be oils or lotions you can’t use. Not a good idea to use sweet almond oil on someone with a severe nut allergy for example! For your first appointment, a client history form is usually filled in and covers medical history, work, activities you do and what your current reason for wanting massage is. Even if you regularly go back to the same person, you still need to let them know if anything has changed, if there are new issues, injuries or what areas you would like to focus on. If you always come in for massage on your back and neck, but today your legs hurt…your therapist needs to know this.
So, you can see it’s mostly a list of common sense things. But being mindful of these things helps for you to get the most out of the treatment you’ve booked for. We all like value for money, so make sure you make the most of each and every treatment – you deserve it after all!
For more ramblings on massage, meditation and wellness: mindbodycontinuum.com