Massage Etiquette Guide: Tips for the Most Relaxing Massage

Although massages are supposed to be relaxing, many people are unsure of the proper etiquette. Should you shave your legs? Should you chat with the massage therapist? Just how naked are you supposed to be? To deliver some peace of mind the dos and don'ts of massage etiquette.

Arrive early.

 Before a massage appointment, you’ll have to fill out some health background paperwork, and also talk with me for just a couple of minutes about what you’re looking for. Showing up right as your appointment starts means you’re actually shorting yourself on massage time. Ten minutes early is perfect, especially if it’s your first time. If you are a regular, 5 minutes early will be just fine.

Respect the Appointment

Schedule your massage session as far in advance as possible. That said, people in this profession know that sudden aches and pains may have you begging for a last-minute appointment, and if they have room on their schedule, they are most likely willing to accommodate you.

If you must cancel the appointment, do so as early as you know you can't make it. That gives your therapist time to book someone else who may want your time slot.

DON'T get a massage when you're sick:

"If you're sick, don't come in, please.  "If I get sick for a week, I'm not getting paid for a week

Turn off your phone. 

You can’t relax if your phone is constantly going off.  Please remember to turn your phone to silent or off before your massage begins so that you can relax 30-90 minutes. 

How clean should I be?

Showering that day is preferable.  When your skin is clean, it will better absorb the lotions and oils used during your massage.

Should I shave my legs beforehand?

"Not shaving for a few days or even weeks is no reason for hand-wringing. ... I can't even tell the difference."

What kind of information should I share with my massage therapist before my massage begins?

The answer to that question is, and will always be, YES! It is crucial that you are 100% truthful and honest about any conditions or injuries that you have, or have had in the past, on your health history form.  I understand that sometimes it may be difficult to remember an old injury, but as soon as you do, even if it seems irrelevant to the current issue that you may have, you should share it with me or any therapist. Not only will it help to customize the treatment to best suit your needs, but it also ensures that I am mindful of any contraindications that may need to be considered.

There are also certain safety concerns for some issues that may put you or your therapist at risk.

There are also some concerns that are a bit more of a personal matter. Sometimes, people don’t share certain issues due to anxiety of being judged or looked at differently, and I must tell you, there will NEVER be a time that I will judge you or treat you differently based on a condition or issue that you may have. As a massage practitioner, I am focused on providing a safe and judgment-free environment for all patients.  

Should I get totally naked?

Undress to your comfort level

"I inform my clients that they can undress to their comfort level " 

If you're having lower-back issues, "I recommend removing underwear because a glute massage is essential for these types of ailments. And if you've never had your glutes and hips worked on, I highly recommend it. There are so many thick muscles in these areas, muscles that hardly ever get attention, and they all criss-cross and cause serious lower-back and hamstring issues."

During my massage, should I be quiet or make small talk?

Whatever makes you most comfortable!

"If your asking questions or bring[ing] up a topic, I will answer or join in. If they're quiet, I remain quiet. I think some people get nervous, so they may be a bit chatty." most clients make small talk for the first 20–30 minutes, then zone out for the remainder of the massage.

How do I (politely) let a massage therapist know that what they're doing doesn't feel good?

Communication is key

 I will usually ask at the beginning what kind of pressure you want; if you don’t know, tell me that, then be sure to communicate whether you like what I am doing or not. In this type of setting, it’s not at all personal.

You should also communicate at the beginning if you don’t want a certain part of your body massaged. For instance, I don’t like my feet being touched (because they’re ticklish),  always let the therapist/practitioner know before the start.

"I would rather my clients leave happy and satisfied than not, so if what I am doing is not enjoyable, a good 'that's a little too much pressure' or 'that area is too sensitive to be worked on' should get you satisfying results," 

I don’t like the music playing or sometimes I just need quiet.  Is it rude to ask?

Most massage therapists naturally tune the music out so it’s fine to ask for a request or silence.    As massage therapists we are trained to tailor sessions for optimal outcome, it’s completely fine to ask for better listening.

I was really uncomfortable from lying in one position for a while, is this necessary?

Anytime, and I mean anytime you could be more comfortable let me know.  I’d rather you ask me 30 times to adjust a pillow, the face cradle, etc… than to suffer through.  There are so many options for positioning, it’s better to be comfortable and I will be fine with any such request.

Should You Feel Soreness or Pain During a Massage?

It's a myth that any form of massage therapy (even deep tissue massage) must be painful to be effective. Pain during a massage isn't a sure sign that the massage is helping.  In fact, pain can cause muscles to seize up, making it harder for the massage therapist/Practitioner to ease tense areas.

However mild discomfort is usual for deep tissue massage.

Certain techniques, like trigger point therapy, usually cause soreness. Correcting a soft tissue problem (such as adhesions, tight attachments, and trigger points) can also cause some discomfort. However, if you don't have a soft tissue condition, a massage shouldn't cause soreness or pain.

Open communication with your massage therapist is key to a massage that meets your needs. If you have an injury or chronically tight or painful areas, be sure that your therapist is aware of it before the start of the session. If the pressure is too intense, tell your massage therapist immediately so he or she can ease up.

What about bodily functions?

 It’s not uncommon to pass gas during a massage. You’re super relaxed after all, and sometimes it just happens. Even though you’ll probably be embarrassed if it happens, no need to be and the therapist will ignore it.

So if you’ve got a lot of gas or need to use the bathroom, it’s okay to pause the session and visit the restroom. The same thing goes for needing to pee, or simply blow your nose. It’s okay to call a timeout.

What If You Feel Self-Conscious About Your Body?

Being self-conscious shouldn't keep you from seeking health care, whether it's visiting your doctor or seeing a massage therapist. A professional massage therapist will be non-judgmental and focused on your muscles (and other soft tissue).

Still, some common concerns clients have are:

Having back acne,  Believing they are overweight. Thinking they have ugly feet Being self-conscious about scars

You can request that the massage therapist avoid certain areas. Or, you can look for a licensed massage therapist who uses a style of massage that can be done through clothing. No massage oil or lotion is used, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment.

What If You Are Ticklish?

Let your massage therapist know if you're ticklish before your massage begins. Usually, firm, slow pressure (and avoiding certain spots) can keep you from feeling ticklish during a massage.