- Karen Stoner, LMT
5 Common fears about getting a massage
Some people love massage and others don't. I know, it sounds crazy - with all of it's benefits and how great it makes you feel, how can someone not like it? Well, some people don't like massage simply because they are uncomfortable being touched and that is ok, but others may state that they don't like massage simply because they have either had a bad experience, or they have fears about the massage itself. Here are some of the more common concerns I have heard people express about massage, and my thoughts and reassurances.
1. It will hurt.
Many people believe that for a massage to be effective, it has to be deep. Likewise, some massage therapists believe that they must use deep pressure if someone says they are tight. Neither of these things are true. Everyone has a different tolerance for what is 'deep' pressure-wise, and likewise, not every condition calls for "deep" pressure. Plus, there are also therapists who either may not realize their own strength or are only trained to work one way. Therapists should ask "How is that pressure?" at least once during a massage, especially if they are seeing that client for the first time. Clients should be honest and let the therapist know if they are pressing too deeply or not deeply enough. Sometimes clients are intimidated and think that if they ask to ease up pressure, they won't get the relief they are seeking, so they keep quiet. This doesn't help the client or the therapist. The bottom line is that a massage should never purposely make you hurt. The goal of massage is to take away pain, not cause it. The key to stop this is good communication between client and therapist.
2. I don't like being naked.
Removing all of your clothing is never required for a massage. Unless you are getting specific spa treatments that will get you completely soaking wet, you should never have to 'strip down naked'. I tell my clients to "disrobe to your comfort level". That means take off/leave on as much clothing as you feel comfortable. For some people, their comfort level means completely naked, while others prefer to leave on underwear and bra, still others keep on a full t-shirt and pants, and that is all fine. While it is easier for the therapist to work directly on bare skin without clothing in the way, we are trained to make it work with whatever makes you comfortable. To put more fears aside, even if one removes a majority of their clothing, they remain covered by a sheet or blanket the whole time, and only the body part being worked on (arm, leg, back, etc) is uncovered, then re-covered once the work is done. In some states, it is actually illegal to uncover a woman's chest, or anyone's rear end area, so even with clothing removed, you still stay covered.
3. I'm afraid I will fart / make some other bodily noise.
The human body can be weird and occasionally gross. Most of the time, we can't control that. Massage can make it harder to control stuff because as we are relaxing, muscles are unwinding, toxins and fluids are moving - bodies make noises. It happens. No big deal. Your therapist knows you are human, and human bodies make noises. While it may seem embarrassing, we have encountered a lot in our professions, and body noises rarely cause any concern. Besides - your therapists - they are human too, and their bodies make just as many weird noises as yours. I have had my stomach gurgle while working on people, and I once threw out my neck trying to stifle a sneeze while I was working on a client. The important thing is that you are relaxed, and sometimes body noises only happen when you are relaxed, so we can occasionally take those weird noises as a compliment.
4. My feet get sweaty and smelly
Once again, we encounter a lot of stuff in our profession. Same thing with unshaven legs - doesn't bug us because we are not here to judge you on a cosmetic level, we are here to help you feel better on a deeper physical and emotional level. To be blunt, we're probably going to use some sort of oil or lotion to massage your feet anyway, so the physical condition of the feet doesn't matter. Side note - I'm a retired professional ballerina. Feet do not faze me because I have seen the pinnacles of sheer hell that feet can go through. Many other therapists have been through similar past experiences with other body parts, so it takes a lot to make them uncomfortable, and we are also trained to deal with anything 'out of the ordinary'. Now we do greatly appreciate it if you wash your feet before coming in for your appointment, but if you can't, don't worry, we can take it.
5. I /my significant other is uncomfortable with someone of the opposite sex touching me
Despite the 'reputation' that popular culture often gives massage, licensed Massage Therapists are not only trained in proper and appropriate massage techniques and skills, they are also heavily trained in ethics and professionalism. Sexual advances are not tolerated - by either party. Anyone coming for a massage from a properly trained and licensed therapist should have no worries about their therapist or boundaries. Nevertheless, it is understandable that some people do have issues with therapists of the opposite gender. It could be from a past history of abuse or trauma, religion, or just personal preference. You should always be comfortable with your therapist. Some places will allow you to request a specific therapist, but others, such as educational settings, may not because it inhibits the students' abilities to learn. Massage is a deeply personal thing. You are putting yourself literally in the hands of another person. It can be intense, so your comfort is ultimately the most important thing. That being said, it also should be your decision - not someone else's. I recently read a post where a woman was asking for a recommendation for a new spa because the 'highly reputable spa she loved and had been going to for years' recently hired a new male massage therapist, and the woman's boyfriend forbade her to ever go to that spa again because he didn't want the male therapist to touch her. It seemed that the boyfriend's view of massage was that was that it had erotic undertones, as frequently shown in pop culture. (I actually have a lot of opinions about the boyfriend, but I digress.) No doubt if the therapist had been hired by a 'highly reputable' spa, he would have been checked out, properly trained, licensed by his state, and was likely to only act in a professional manner. The boyfriend seemed to have a very biased view of massage therapists, and that forced the girlfriend to leave therapists and a location that she felt safe and comfortable with. You have every right to work with a therapist that makes you comfortable, and yes, while there are some cases for being uncomfortable with a therapist of the opposite gender, but . But be aware if that decision is made with genuine concern or a preconceived bias.