Visiting a Massage Therapist:
How to prepare;
what to Expect

A visit to a massage therapist can be a relaxing, health-promoting appointment. I've had this therapy from four different practitioners over the years, and they have a few things in common...

...each masseuse had a completely private location for the actual event. Soothing background music played during the hour. The actual table was covered with a clean sheet, and I was covered with another one, plus a light blanket in the winter months.

Also in common, every one who performed the massage asked specifically whether I liked light, medium or firm pressure. I was encouraged to let her know how it felt as we went along, and if I had any specific concerns before we started.

Photo-link to interview with my own masseuse, Anne, where I asked her the five key questions. Click on photo for page with questions and video interview. Close page to return here.


First Steps

When you enter the therapist's office--picture at right shows a typical spa-type location--you may expect to be greeted warmly. For first timers, the practitioner's goal is to set you at ease, and move gently through the appointment. Each one I've been to shows a patient, warm and calming presence.

Sidebar: I suspect that in addition to anatomy, biology and specific physiology training, massage practitioners also study a bit of psychology, since they constantly care for people in what may be a new or uncomfortable situation.

Remember, this is a natural healing therapy that benefits the human body in the following ways:

  • promotes healing from cancer
  • relieves stress
  • relieves chronic low back pain
  • as well as joint pain.

Some masseuses practice within a gym, with a separate suite or private room dedicated to their use. Some practice from their homes, some from beauty parlors or spas, and some have an office entirely to themselves, though I've found that to be the least common set-up.

Would you like some real life stories? Follow this link to Milaca's site; she practices massage therapy in Hawaii, and shares her clients' responses on the following page:

(Not to worry--this page will pop under to guide you back!)

After talking a bit, the therapist will invite you into the actual space where the massage will be given. He or she will invite you to disrobe down to your underpants, and then depart for a few minutes while you do so.

You'll arrange yourself on the table, under the sheet, facedown. After a bit, the masseuse will knock at the door to see if you are ready. When you are, he or she will enter, and the session begins.

Generally, rubbing the muscles of upper back, shoulders and arms are first. This proceeds, moving down the entire body, until the toes and soles of the feet are covered. The sheet is folded out of the way as needed, then replaced as a new area becomes the focus of attention.

To Talk or Not to Talk

Do you talk? or simply lie there drinking it all in?

It's totally up to you. I find I talk during the first half or third, then fall silent and concentrate on my breathing and relaxing. The music helps.

Psychology, again, I think. Most therapists will take their cue from you--talking if you like, or working calmly in silence if that is what you prefer.

My favorite masseuse, Anne, surprised me by saying that sometimes her clients fall asleep during the actual process! I never do--it feels too good to miss. (For those who want to see my interview of Anne, I'll place that link here when I've completed it. Something to look forward to, eh?)

Halfway Done

When your back is completed, you'll be asked to flip over onto it for the second part of the massage. Therapists hold the sheet out at an angle to simplify this maneuver. oily_hair_face_head_massage_aaaah

The process continues until you've been rubbed and kneaded all over. If you don't mind your hair getting oily, they'll often work on the skull itself, which feels weird at first...

...but I rather like it now. That is to say, it's worth getting oily for.

After the massage is complete, you'll be left alone for a while to "let it soak in." Lay there a bit before rising and dressing; it's good for you.

When you emerge from the room, you may be offered a glass of water--or hot tea. Washing away the toxins unlocked from the muscles is very important at this point! Payment and scheduling another appointment may also take place now.

Range of cost: for a one-hour session, you may find a special deal for under $50. Often, therapists beginning a practice will run such a special to gather clientele. In a five-star hotel, or spa location, you may be charged over $150. for the same one-hour massage. I've been given packages of three gift certificates, which were very much appreciated. (I think there was a price break on these, too.)

It's worth shopping around to see location, set-up and general amenities at each locale.


Weighing your Options

How often to treat yourself to a massage? Depends on medical conditions, finances and your own schedule.

Where. At home? This works well if you have no little children, especially at the end of the day.

Alone or with someone you know? A Valentine's Day special I've seen. This can be enjoyable, with a spouse, good friend, or your mother--as a Mothers' Day treat to you both. You can see here an entire roomful of people all being massaged at once.

My hope is that by laying out the options, and walking you through the process, you'll have the best experience possible with massage therapy.

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