During a first session, the practitioner will ask the client to fill out a medical
history and clarify any condition that may affect the client's health and comfort. It is
possible some conditions will require a physician's permission before proceeding.
The client and the practitioner will discuss the desired outcome of the session.
This will determine which parts of the body require massage. A typical full-body session
will include work on the back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck and shoulders. The
client will not be touched on or near the genitals (male or female) or breasts (female).
Techniques are traditionally performed with the client unclothed; however, it is entirely
up to clients what they want to wear. They should undress to their level of comfort.
They will be properly draped (covered with a sheet or towel) for warmth, comfort and privacy
during the entire session. Only the area being worked on will be exposed.
The practitioner will leave the room while the client undresses, relaxes on the table
and covers up with a clean sheet or towel.
Many massage therapists use a form of Swedish massage, which is often a baseline technique
for practitioners. In a typical Swedish massage, the session may start with broad, flowing
strokes that will help calm the nervous system and relax exterior muscle tension. As the body
becomes relaxed, pressure will gradually be increased to relax specific areas and relieve
areas of muscular tension. Often, a light oil or lotion is used to allow muscles to be
massaged without causing excessive friction to the skin. The oil also helps hydrate skin.
Clients should communicate immediately if they feel any discomfort so that another
approach may be taken. Massage and bodywork are most effective when the body is not resisting.
Professionals are trained to solicit and receive client feedback and are expected to respond to
The practitioner will either gently move clients or tell them what is needed throughout
the session (such as lifting an arm). Many people just close their eyes and completely relax.
Others like to talk during the session. They should feel free to ask the practitioner
questions about massage and bodywork in general or about the particular technique they are
There are numerous types of massage and bodywork — as many as 250 in a recent informal
analysis; various techniques employ different strokes, including basic rubbing and rocking
movement, posture and movement reeducation, application of pressure to specific points and
The average full-body massage or bodywork session lasts approximately one hour. A half-hour
appointment only allows time for a partial massage session, such as neck and shoulders, back,
legs and feet. Many people prefer a 60-minute to 90-minute session for optimal relaxation.
Most people feel very relaxed after a massage. Some experience freedom from long-term aches
and pains developed from tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of feeling slowed
down, people often experience increased energy, heightened awareness and greater productivity,
which can last for days. Since toxins are released from soft tissues during a massage, the
consumer should drink plenty of water following the massage.