7 Massage Questions You’ve Been Too Embarrassed to Ask
“I forgot to shave my legs”… “Did I put deodorant on?”… “Am I supposed to take my underwear off or leave them on?”… These are some of the thoughts and questions that went through my mind when I first started getting massages as a teenager (Thanks, mom! It’s never too early to learn self-care). Hi, I’m Kim, massage therapist at Glo. Receiving a massage can be a vulnerable experience, especially if it’s your first time, and I know that insecurities can come up during a session. Below are the answers to a few common questions that will hopefully set your mind at ease so you can relax and enjoy your massage. Short answer to all of them: your comfort and safety are my top priorities, and it’s my goal to create a welcoming space of non-judgment where you can show up as you are and set aside any worries for the time we have together. This time is all about you, so the last thing you need to worry about is taking care of me.
1. What does “undress to your level of comfort” mean?
It means just that… you can remove or leave on as much clothing as is comfortable to you, knowing that I will keep all the important parts covered with the sheet throughout the massage. When I receive a massage, I take everything off because I have low back issues and it’s helpful to receive a lot of work on my gluteal muscles. Do you feel more comfortable with your underwear on? Great! I can totally work around them or over the sheet and avoid any areas where you aren’t comfortable receiving work. I have some clients who don’t like oil on their skin or get cold during massage, so they choose to leave all their clothes on. That’s great too! Truly, whatever is most comfortable for you works for me.
2. Are you silently judging my leg stubble / body imperfections / body odor / lack of a perfect pedicure, etc?
Heck no! After 15 years as a bodyworker and working on people from all walks of life ranging in age from kids to my 94-year-old grandma, I’ve seen just about everything. The last thing I’m doing during our session is critiquing your body. What I am paying attention to are tension patterns in your body, your response to the work, my intuitive hits that may come up, and my appreciation of you being there. Also, I had a private practice in Boulder, CO for 9 years, so body hair and all things natural were a lot more common than smoothly-shaved skin and pedicures. And guess what, body odor is totally normal, and I’d take that over perfume or strongly-scented body products any day.
3. What if I have to pass gas / cough / sneeze / use the restroom / cry?
Do it! Better out than in, I say, and there’s nothing worse than laying there trying to hold it all in when you’re trying to relax. I’m quite comfortable with bodily functions and emotions, and the body can have all sorts of autonomic nervous system responses to bodywork even beyond the ones listed above. I promise that I won’t think less of you or be embarrassed. Massage will often get things moving, so it’s normal to have a grumbly tummy or need to pass gas. We can ignore it or laugh it off together. Bathroom breaks in the middle of your massage are no problem at all. I like to receive 2-hour massages and I have a small bladder, so I totally get it. It’s also not unusual to have emotions come up during a session. I’m there for you as a listening ear and as someone to share in what you’re going through, or you can have all the space and silence you need. Either way, I keep plenty of tissues on hand if you need them.
4. Should I talk during our session?
This is totally up to you. Of course I love chatting with you and getting to know you, and there are times that I’ll need to check in with you, but I am also keenly aware of how precious silence is and the magic it has in tuning you in to your own body and experience and promoting deep relaxation and healing. My default is to give you silence (with the exception of checking in about pressure early-on and asking you to turn over), and then will follow your lead on how much conversation you would like to have. Please don’t ever feel like you need to entertain me or make me feel comfortable by making conversation. This is your time, so talk as much or as little as feels good to you.
5. No pain, no gain, right?
Ummmmm, no. It’s a common misconception that the work has to be painful in order to be effective, but that is often just creating more tension in the body which is the opposite of what we’re going for. I’m all for deep work and the “it hurts so good” feeling, but if you find yourself tightening-up, clenching, guarding, or being unable to breathe, then it’s too deep and not doing you any favors. Over the years I have found that the body has a miraculous ability to release tension and heal when the nervous system is able to settle, so sometimes gentle, relaxing, feel-good techniques can be more effective at releasing stuck areas of the body than aggressively poking and digging at them. Cool, right?
6. Are there any circumstances in which I should not come in for a massage?
Yes, definitely. Most importantly, if you are acutely ill with something contagious, please please please don’t book a massage. This puts me, my co-workers, and any other clients I come into contact with in danger of getting sick as well, and nobody wants that. There is a misconception that if you have a cold or are coming down with the flu that massage will make you feel better. The opposite is true, and massage can actually make you feel much worse. Once you’re past the contagious stage, however, massage is a great thing to do for yourself!
There are certain circumstances in which I will be unable to provide massage (including uncontrolled high blood pressure, blood clots, first trimester of pregnancy, fever) and times when we will proceed with caution or avoid certain areas. The safest bet is that if you do have a condition, simply check in with your doctor for approval prior to booking your massage. There will be times that I will ask if you have your doctor’s approval, so getting a note is even better. If you’re still not sure, give me a call or email and we can discuss it.
7. Am I being high-maintenance if I ask you to adjust the pressure?
Not at all. I would much prefer that you communicate openly and honestly about anything that would make your session more comfortable and enjoyable rather than holding back in fear of hurting my feelings (hint: my feelings won't be hurt). Beyond pressure, this also goes for adjusting the face cradle, bolsters (I have breast bolsters for you busty ladies and breastfeeding mamas… just ask!), temperature (we can always add or remove blankets or adjust the table warmer), or asking to spend extra time when we find a spot that feels really good.
That’s it for now!
I hope this leaves you feeling a bit more at-ease for your next massage session. If you have any other questions pop up, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at Glo. I look forward to seeing you soon!