Whether you are thinking of getting a massage for the first time or already have a regular massage habit, these simple tips can help you get the most of it – and there can never be too much of a good thing!
1. Give yourself plenty of time. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early to avoid the stress of being late. Turn off your phone, sip some water or tea in the reception area, and take your time filling out the intake form. Also give yourself at least half an hour to relax AFTER the massage: the relaxation response causes a drop in blood pressure and it’s safer and more enjoyable to take your time resuming activities. You want a massage to be a de-stressing experience, not something to cram into an over-scheduled day. But don’t skip massages if you are very busy this time of the year: consider having a therapist come to your home in the evening, after you are done for the day. You can go straight to sleep afterwards and reap the benefits of relaxation overnight.
2. Don’t eat a large meal before your treatment, but try not to be so hungry that you can’t stop planning your next meal in your mind while trying to relax.
3. Don’t forget to drink a lot of water for the rest of the day after a massage, and be well hydrated before it. This will enhance the circulation and flushing of the toxins stirred up by the treatment. Do visit the bathroom right before the massage, even if you ‘don’t have to go’. Once you are on the table on your stomach, undressed under the blanket, you will realize you suddenly do.
4. Communicate with your therapist about your preferences, allergies, medical conditions, areas of pain or any other concerns you have. The intake form contains questions we are required to collect by law as licensed massage therapists, but please do bring to our attention anything else that may help the therapist customize the session for you.
5. Be comfortable. Once on the table, let the therapist know if you need an extra blanket, change the music volume or selection or adjust the face rest. When you are asked if the pressure if OK, don’t automatically say ‘yes’ but consider asking for more or less pressure, if you that’s what you prefer. If you don’t want to mess up your hairstyle or have a ticklish area – or any area you want to avoid, for any reason – just say so. If the stones are hotter than you prefer, your therapist wants you to speak up!
6. Relax. Breathe. Let go of everything else. Just be present in your body and dedicate this time to restoring and recharging your body. Breathe deeply to center yourself in your body and give your mind a break. Holding your breath makes your muscles tense up and interferes with massage, especially deep tissue work. I start my massages with long strokes coordinated with deep breathing to facilitate relaxation.
7. Know your massage goal. Are you trying to get through a particularly stressful period at work and feel tense all over? Do you have a flair-up of an old hip injury after a recent race? Your goal will determine the best massage for you. Swedish massage can be great for stress-related physical and mental tension, but specific dis-functions and injury sequelae may require trigger point therapy, Thai yoga massage, stretching and corrective exercises to get relief. Let your therapist customize the treatment for you.
8. Don’t expect too much. Massage IS proven as an effective treatment for many conditions, and you can certainly expect to feel energized and relaxed after the first or very occasional massage. But more benefits are reaped by the people who do it regularly. It’s no different than exercise or taking vitamins. Many massage therapists including myself offer package discounts to reward you for being good to yourself.
9. Don’t be self-conscious about undressing. Therapists are well trained and experienced to drape in a way that maintains your privacy at all times. If you are still uneasy, Thai massage is performed wearing loose pants and a t-shirt. Undress only to the level you are comfortable with. Some people prefer to get regular table massages fully clothed due to religious customs. Your therapist will be happy to accommodate your preferences.
10. Schedule another appointment before you leave and consider getting a package. Incorporate regular massages, whether it’s once a month, once a week, or a series of treatments to work on a particular issue. Regular massages are the best way to get the most from your treatments!