Getting regular massages really helps my tight muscles. As much as I stretch and use self-massage tools at home, nothing truly compares to getting a professional massage. For the past 9 years I have been getting massages at least once a month. I have worked with 6 massage therapists over that time and have some suggestions for anyone interested in using massages to help them.
If you are thinking about starting a massage routine, or just trying one session follow along for things to think about before getting a massage.
Find the Right Type of Massage
There are a number of different types of massage from Swedish and deep tissue to more active modalities like Thai and Shiatsu. Each offer benefits and different therapists have their own specialties. Typically your entry-level massage price, or what is often offered on Groupon is for a Swedish massage. It uses a lighter touch good for relaxation and gentle massage work. If you are in the massage and want more pressure applied there will be a limit as deeper pressure massage are more costly as there is more physical effort required.
When I book someone new I look for a therapist who specializes in deep tissue and myofascial release. Generally when you pay the premium cost for a massage the therapist is then open to using a mix of modalities. If I book a deep tissue massage, but my therapist notices that my fascia, the netting around your muscles is tight or knotted they will work on my fascia first in order to get into my muscles.
Do not shy away from the less typical massage types either! I have done both Thai and Shiatsu massages and find them to be a fascinating blend of stretching, massaging, and acupressure. Just a heads up that they are performed on a mat on the floor with you dressed in loose fitting clothing. If you choose a Shiatsu massage know that the therapist will press on your stomach to analyze where they need to focus their work- I recommend NOT eating right before a Shiatsu massage!
Find the Right Therapist
If you do not already have a therapist or massage studio in mind, ask around! Check in with friends to see if they have any recommendations, or check out a review site like Yelp. Once you find a studio or therapist make sure that they specialize in the modality you think will work best for you.
Dress for Success
In the movies or on TV you might see someone strip down to nothing for their massage. While it is perfectly acceptable to do so is remaining fully clothed, or keeping wearing any combination of clothing you need to feel comfortable.
While you are expected to wear loose fitting clothes for something like a Thai or Shiatsu massage where you are going to be moved, you still have the option to wear loose fitting clothes for a massage performed on a table. If you choose to keep on some clothes , but not all- say just your undies, know that the therapist will be using lotion or oil when working on your bare skin so it is possible the lotion/oil might get on your clothes.
If you choose to wear loose fitting clothes for a table massage, let the therapist know in advance either when booking or during your introduction conversation just before the massage.
Regardless of how much or little clothing you choose to wear, you do not want to have on necklaces for your massage so leave them at home, or make sure they are easy to remove.
Communication is Key
It is so important to speak with your massage therapist. When you get into the massage room the therapist will speak with you about what your goals are for the massage that day. Let them know about any body parts that need work and anywhere that they should avoid either due to injury, or your comfort level. No matter how many massages I have gotten I don’t like having my inner thigh massaged, it just makes me uncomfortable. If you do not know in advance what spots you want the therapist to avoid, that is OK just let them know during the massage.
You may also notice during the massage that there is a different spot you want them to work on that you originally mentioned. Just let them know! One of the key words used in a massage is tender- tender can describe a muscle you want avoid, or worked on. I will always tell my therapist if a spot they hit that I have not said I want focused on feels tender, or if I notice that between the two sides of my body the muscle on one side is more tender than the other. Yes, the normally feel that this spot is tighter when they touch it, but they do not know what their work feels like for you unless you tell them.
Another thing to keep in mind with regard to communication with your therapist is timing. Yes they should be in charge of getting the requested massage in within the time you purchased for your massage, but this does not always happen. If you are anxious about how much time your therapist is putting into one spot of your body, it OK to ask for a time check. Just ask how much time is left and let them know if you want them to focus on a different part. You might feel rude doing this, but you shouldn’t. It is your money, your massage, and the therapist wants you to be happy with it so ultimately you book with them again– and so that your body feels better walking out of the studio than it did when you walked in to it.
Be sure to arrive early for your massage especially if it is your first one at a new studio. You will have to fill out forms to share history about injuries, health issues the therapist may need to know about, and what you want to get out of your massage. You will also want extra time to go to the bathroom if needed! Keep in mind that massage therapists often have back to back massages and cannot give you your full time paid for if you are late to your session.
Rest and Stay Hydrated
After your massage, plan to have little on your schedule. You don’t want to go from a relaxing massage to a work out, or a stressful situation. Be sure to stay hydrated the rest of the day too. Massage moves lymphatic fluid and you want to be hydrated to help flush it out. Drinking water can help curb soreness the day after a massage. Also, massages just make you surprisingly thirsty- at least they make me thirsty!
Massage can be hugely beneficial for so many reasons, you just have to find what works for you. Sometimes it can take more than one visit with the same therapist for things to fit, and sometimes you have have try out different therapists, or modalities. Play around with some of the suggestions above to find what suits you best.