Making the Most of Your Massage

How To Achieve Lasting Effects

By Nina McIntosh

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2005.

It may seem like all you have to do to get the most out of a massage is show up, relax, and let the massage therapist do the rest. In some ways, that’s true. But there are also some things you can do that will make your experience even more enjoyable, all while building a solid working relationship with your massage therapist. Following are some “insider tips” to help you get the most out of your sessions.

Speak up about your concerns and questions.

I’ve learned that expressing myself to my massage therapist is an important key to my sense of security during the treatment. Of course, you want to let your massage therapist know if the room is too hot or too cold, whether the music suits you, and so forth.

But beyond those comforts, you also have a right to ask questions related to the work at hand — for instance, the therapist’s training in a particular technique or any risks involved. Also, don’t be embarrassed to ask for a clearer explanation of anything the massage therapist says that is too technical or in jargon you don’t understand.

Don’t be embarrassed by “betrayals of the body.”

Your massage therapist knows that, as people relax, they can have responses not considered “acceptable” in polite society. People can pass gas or, when on their stomach, drool on the sheet. Men may have erections if they fall asleep or simply from the pleasure of relaxation and not because they are thinking about sex. Your massage therapist will generally ignore such unintentional occurrences.

Go regularly.

Though treating yourself to a massage every now and then is a valuable boost to your self-care, you’re likely to see even more benefits with regular treatment. Try getting massage at least twice a month for a while to see the power of the cumulative effects.

Enhance the benefits both before and after the massage.

Most clients know they will get more out of their massage if they try to wind down before it starts and give full attention to it once it’s begun — turning off cell phones while also clicking off the mental switch on the day’s concerns and problems. It’s also helpful if you know to schedule your massage at the end of your workday and bring along your casual clothes to wear when you leave. Struggling into panty hose or retying a tie can be a nuisance after a relaxing hour.

Keep appointments, and pay at the time of the appointment.

As with other professionals, massage therapists expect you to keep your appointments and pay for them at the time of the service, unless you make other arrangements ahead of time.

If you show up late, understand that your session will likely be shortened to be able to keep the therapist on schedule. Even if your therapist has no other appointments that day, she has a right to keep to her schedule.

Similarly, if you show up early, your massage therapist probably won’t be able to begin your appointment until the arranged time. Even if your therapist isn’t with a client when you arrive, she may need the time to return phone calls or just gather herself so she can be at her best for you.

If you must break an appointment, know your therapist’s policies. Most ask for at least a 24-hour notice. Because they need that time to fill the slot with another client, many therapists will ask you to pay if you cancel without enough notice. Of course, if you have an emergency, you usually won’t be charged.

If you miss an appointment altogether without notifying your therapist, don’t be surprised if she crosses you off her client list. If you are able to make another appointment, expect to pay for the missed hour.

Be ready for home sessions.

If you receive massages in your home, be ready for the session to start at the appointed hour. You’ll enjoy it more if you turn off the phone and don’t have children running about or a baby to attend to. Try to give yourself uninterrupted time for the session.

In a spa, ask about tipping.

If you receive your massage at a spa, ask the therapist (or the front desk person) if tipping is appropriate. Often those who work in spas count on gratuities to supplement a relatively low salary. If the spa doesn’t have an automatic percentage, adding 10 percent to 15 percent is customary.

When in doubt, shower beforehand.

Most people perspire as they go about their normal day, especially in warm weather. A slightly moist client isn’t a problem for most massage therapists. However, if you’ve been working in the yard, jogging, playing tennis, or the like, jump in the shower or take a relaxing bath before you go to your appointment. If you’re slippery with perspiration, the therapist will find it difficult to work on you, to say nothing of not wanting to push grime into your body. And it will only help you relax that much more in preparation for your appointment.

Mums the word.

If you have a friend or family member who also sees your massage therapist, don’t try to engage your therapist in conversation about them. While it’s fine for you to talk about these folks, know that it will be a one-sided conversation. Your therapist is bound by confidentiality and can’t answer questions or gossip about clients.

Let your massage therapist know ahead of time about illnesses or contagious conditions.

Your massage therapist probably asked your about your history of physical conditions when you had your first appointment. However, keep your therapist current on any physical problems that come up, even if they seem to be temporary.

If you have a cold or flu, talk with your therapist before you go for your session. Your therapist may decide that a massage that day isn’t a good idea, either because you may be contagious
or because you might feel worse afterward.

If you have any contagious skin conditions, such as athlete’s foot or poison ivy, be sure to let your massage therapist know.


While it’s your massage therapist’s job to make sure you are pampered and taken care of, being “in the know” can make your massage sessions feel even more relaxing and worthwhile.