Insider tips and secrets are awesome right?
This guest post is on a especially great topic because there is Unspoken Etiquette as well as Possibly Mysterious Procedures which leave many fearful of getting massages. And even those of us who are greedy massage-junkies eager to jump naked onto a table whenever we can spare the cash? We still have questions and concerns. What if we are screwing up in some way? Would anyone every tell us?
This post is written by a massage therapist who is also one of my very favorite fitness bloggers. Her blog is Muscle Milk Is Not a Euphemism which you should definitely check out if you have not already.
Guest Post by Malevolent Andrea
1) You Don’t HAVE To Have The Nature Music
My mind was blown a couple years ago when an online power-lifting friend said that she’d get massages more often, except that the quote, unquote nature music massage places always play makes her feel twitchy and uncomfortable. “Dude,” I said, “you know you can ask them to turn off the music or change it, right?” Her turn for mind=blown. No, she had no idea that was within the realm of possibilities.
Trust me, kids. It’s your massage and your therapist would love to do something as simple as adjust the music if it’s going make you more comfortable. If it’s a private office, your therapist might even be happy to play your own music you brought with you if you ask nicely. And if it’s a big clinic/spa/massage chain where the music is controlled by the front desk and piped through the whole place, your therapist will at least have a control in the room to lower the volume to “off.” You might in that case still vaguely be able to hear nature music coming from the hallway, but it shouldn’t be enough to make you twitch.
BTW? My power-lifting friend has a firm promise from me that should she ever make it to Boston, I will give her a massage and play Metallica. Because that’s what helps her relax.
2) We're Not Offended If You Fart
My same power-lifting friend also confided that she never, ever let herself fall asleep during a massage, no matter how good it felt or how tired she was. Because she was terrified she’d fart in her sleep.
“Dude,” I said, “it’s a compliment to your therapist if you fart.” I’m not sure she believed me, but they drilled this into us in massage school. One of the things massage should do is engage your parasympathetic nervous system. When your parasympathetic nervous system is engaged and you’re outta that fight-or-flight sympathetic state, your digestive system switches on, leading to things like loud tummy gurgling and passing gas. In short, if you fart your therapist thinks ah, my work here is done. Don’t sweat it.
3) It’s Better For Everyone If We're Not Chatting Through The Whole Treatment
Some people are talkers. We get it. And if you need to make a little conversation at the beginning of your treatment to get comfortable, that’s fine. But if you talk through the whole massage, you will never fully relax, your therapist will be distracted, and unless you’re really quiet, the guy getting massaged in the room next door is probably gonna hate your guts.
4) “Undress To Your Comfort level” Has Its Limits
That phrase is massage-speak for “leave your underpants on or take them off, I couldn’t care less because you’re going to have a sheet over you anyway.” It does NOT mean that if you’re a woman and you want your back worked on (everyone wants their back worked on), it’s okay to
keep your bra on or if you’re a guy with messed up hammies or IT bands, you wear your boxer briefs. Boxer briefs are the devil. True fact. We can work around that shiz, but it’s unnecessarily aggravating.
5) We Aren’t Judging Your Body
We see and feel a lot of bodies. We’ll notice if you’re boney or hairy or fat or buff, but we don’t care, other than in how it affects what techniques we use. (Hairy peeps need more lubricant, for example.) If I had a nickel for every client who apologized to me because they hadn’t shaved their legs or because they were overweight and they thought that meant more work for me or because their feet were “gross”, I’d...have enough money to go get coffee. But seriously, even one nickel’s too much. Nothing about your body is disgusting and as long as you’ve bathed in the last reasonable interval, your therapist isn’t thinking any bad thoughts about it.
6) A Problem You’ve Had For Six Years Is Not Gonna Be Fixed In One Visit
This should be self-evident but somehow it isn’t. Sigh.
7) There’s Such a Thing As Overworking The Tissue
You can book a 90 minute massage and demand your therapist work only on that spot in your left shoulder that’s bothering you, and she might even do it, but you’ll be bored, she’ll be bored, and your shoulder is almost certain to feel worse afterwards. More is not better. Better is better. Not to mention that, um, as they taught us in massage school, it’s all connected. If you’ve got pain in your rhomboids in your upper back, I can pretty much guarantee you that your pecs are also tight and pulling your shoulders forward. So even though they may not be consciously hurting, trust me and let me stretch them out for you instead of insisting we work on nothing but your upper back. You’ll feel better in the long run.
8) There’s Also Such A Thing As Warming Up The Tissue
You want deep tissue. You like a lot of pressure. Fine. That does NOT mean that I can go in full force the second I place my hands on you. The muscles need to be warmed up before I can get in there and if I try to go in too quick and too hard, it’s just going to hurt. In an unpleasant way. So, please, don’t say you want more pressure within the first two minutes of your massage. I literally had one client who asked me to go deeper when I was just applying lotion. I was like, honey, we have not even started your massage yet. ZOMGWTF. Don’t be that person, okay?
9) Your Massage Is NOT Supposed To Feel Like You’re Being Tortured
This is the big one. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but somehow a whole bunch of people have become mistakenly convinced that therapeutic massage is supposed to be excruciatingly painful and that if it’s not, it’s not going to fix anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, sometimes during a therapeutic/deep tissue/sports massage, your therapist may need to do some things that are uncomfortable.
Trigger point work, for example. When you’re treating a trigger point it hurts...until it releases. It’s sorta like ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, awwwwwwww, yeahhhh. Sometimes you have to do something that’s uncomfortable that doesn’t lead to immediate relief like, say, stripping a forearm. When my favorite massage school teacher used to demo a technique like that, just as you, the test dummy, were gritting your teeth and wondering why you raised your hand and volunteered, she’d switch over to something infinitely soothing and luscious feeling. “Making nice to the muscle,” as she termed it. Why? No, no, no, not just so we would all continue raising our hands and volunteering. Because it’s good technique.
When you’re doing something painful, if necessary, the muscle’s gonna “think” it’s being attacked and tighten up more. If you make nice to it afterwards, it’ll be all “oh, okay, nothing to worry about” and it’ll relax. (Yes, I do anthropomorphize everything. Shut up.) If you spend twenty or forty straight minutes during a massage doing stuff your client has to grit their teeth through and you never mix it up with more soothing work, chances are high they’re going to leave feeling worse than when they came in, and even higher that they’ll be in complete spasm the next day. That is not a goal to work towards, yo.
10) You Can Try To Step-by-Step Direct Your Massage, But It’ll Make Us Want To Stick An Elbow Through Your Spine
You’re tense. You’re very tense. Part of the reason you’re very tense is because you are, OMG, so very very Type A and you can never just relax and give up control, not the tiniest bit of control, not for one tiny little minute. So you feel compelled to tell your therapist what to do when and how and for how long, never mind that he has spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars at massage therapy school and has a license and a bunch of initials after his name and you don’t. I’d say “don’t be that person” again, but seriously? If you are that person, you can’t help it. Not without lots and lots of therapy of the non-massage variety. So, y’know, just don’t come see me. Because, seriously, you, sir or madam, would test the patience of the Dalai Lama himself and I am no Dalai Lama.