What to Know Before Your First Professional Massage

FLASHBACK POST // This post was originally published on an old blog, but had found new life on caffeine and creativity!

I was 21 the first time I got a professional massage, and it felt like I was doing something I should have done LONG before. It was a table massage in Atlanta while on a work trip, and it felt like someone had just gifted me a new body. I couldn’t feel the pain in my knees from my high heels, or the ache of my muscles from running around all day.

But before the massage has started, I was nervous. I had NO idea what to expect, and most of the massages I had seen in movies ended with an assassination or a terrible “I squeezed the lotion too hard” scenario.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to have a lot of massages. The price can be rough, but I made the decision that massages are an important part of my wellness routine. And MANY people consider this to be true, as massage can be a tool for helping with sports injuries, headaches, anxiety, digestive issues, chronic pain, insomnia, and more!

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I’ve chatted with a lot of people about how much I love a good massage, and have found that the majority of people I know have either never gotten a professional massage, or had only gotten one as a gift or splurge for themselves. During my first few years out of college, there were SO many things that were more important to spend my money on, but now that I am a little bit more established, I took a look at my budget and made massages fit just like I fit in copays for my doctor’s office or prescription costs.

Many spas also give a discount for your first time, so that you can get a taste of their offerings without paying full price. I challenge you to make time and room in your budget for a little bit of self-love through massage! Here is what you can expect, for those of you who are feeling uneasy about an unfamiliar process.

Some things you may find in the room:

  • A massage table covered in sheets and a blanket
  • A heating pad (in some locations)
  • Dim lighting
  • Soft music
  • A pillow that will be placed under your knees/feet
  • Massage oil, lotion, or cream

Dress to your comfort level means just that.

For some people, their comfort level means leaving their pants on. For some people, they choose to stay in their underwear. Others like to be naked for their massage. There is no “right” level of dress, and you won’t get judged by what you wear. You masseuse will keep you covered the entire time, and be extremely careful to keep you under-wraps when they massage areas like your collarbone and legs.

You might have a chatterbox masseuse – or a totally silent one.

Just like you might come in contact with a chatty bus driver or one who doesn’t take their attention off the road, you never know how much your masseuse will want to talk. If you like things to be quiet in the room but you’re getting your ear talked off, you might want to try out a different masseuse. If you hate silence, it’s fine to small talk.

Speak up if the pressure isn’t right.

Chances are, you’re paying a good bit of money for this service, so don’t settle for a “just ok” massage. Your masseuse wants to provide you a really good massage so that you come back, so don’t be afraid to tell them to use a lighter or harder touch. I love a super firm massage, but am really sensitive around my collarbones. I didn’t speak up once and my shoulders were totally bruised! But how was she to know that I wanted lighter pressure there? I’ve spoken up since.

Mention if you have sensitive skin.

Your masseuse should be using hypoallergenic oils, lotions, and creams on you during your massage. I’ve had practitioners use essential oils or light lotions on me, but the current salon I am going to uses a light cream. While these products are made to work with most sensitivity levels, it’s good to note if you are sensitive to lotions, and if you begin to feel uncomfortable once the lotion is applied.

TIP THEM!

They just spent ½-2 hours rubbing down your body. Show them the money! Standard massage tips vary from 10 to 20% depending on how satisfied you were.

Make your next appointment for when works for you.

Chances are, your masseuse is going to try and schedule you for another appointment, and probably soon. If you’re uncomfortable committing to something or concerned about the cost of frequent massages, it is fine to tell them that you will call when you need to book your next appointment. Athletes can get massages several times per WEEK, while others may want one bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly. You can decide on the frequency that is right for you. I am a member of a massage salon, so I get massages at a discounted member rate once per month. See if your salon offers a service like this!

Listen when they tell you to drink lots of water following!

It’s widely believed that a massage releases a boatload of toxins into your system, and this usually leads to your kidneys needing a major flush. This can be accomplished by drinking plenty of water after your massage and the following day. My salon recommended I drink half of my body weight in ounces of water.

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