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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

How Long Should My Massage Be?

One of the first things people notice when they are scheduling a massage is that unless they are looking for a very specialized service, there are usually options for different lengths of massages. So how long of a massage should you get or do you need? Everybody’s needs are different and every therapist has different goals/procedures for each length of appointment, so just to break things down, here is how I personally look at appointment lengths and the benefits of each.

15 Minutes: In my practice, this is the shortest appointment length that I offer. I almost exclusively use this time for chair massages which are simple massages focused on the back, neck, and shoulders that don't require the client to disrobe, so the whole time is used efficiently. I also use this length for infant massages because depending on why I’m working on the baby, forcing the baby to stay still for long periods of time can stress them out, so I keep the sessions short.

30 Minutes/Half Hour: Many people get massages of this length as an introduction to a therapist or to massage in general so they can gauge if it is something that will work for them. Likewise, I usually recommend this length to someone who has something specific like an injury or a chronic issue. 30 minutes gives the therapist the time to determine how the issue is doing, and time to do the work. While it is possible to work on multiple areas of the body in this short time, the more areas being worked on means the less time spent on each area, which still works for some people who just want a bit of quick relaxation without any heavy focused work on anything specific.

60 Minutes/One Hour: This is probably the most common appointment length I see. It is the standard time for a “full body massage” which includes massage on the hands and arms, neck, shoulders, feet and legs, plus the back of the body. You get the complete body worked on as well as having time to provide extra attention to any specific 'trouble' areas such as the shoulders, neck, feet, etc. Some people will also request a one hour appointment if they really have a problem area or injury that needs a lot of focused work so all the time can be focused on that issue.

90 Minutes/Hour and a Half: Sometimes an hour just isn’t enough time to get through everything that needs attention during a massage. Some people will request a 90 minute massage when they want to relax with a full body massage, but also know that they have specific issues that need more attention than can be addressed without lessening the work on another body part. Or sometimes people just want the extra time to treat themselves to some bonus relaxation and quiet time.

120 Minutes/2 Hours: I personally don’t do many of these but do occasionally, and many other therapists also offer it. Usually when a massage is this long it includes not only massage for the whole body, but can also include additional modalities such as stretching, energy work, hot stones, or a host of other things depending on the therapist. The therapist has lots of time to focus on everything from relaxation to addressing injuries, without any work being rushed. While it is possible for therapists to offer longer appointments, anything beyond this time can start to get taxing on the therapist. While we may seem to have super powers, we are human after all, and we do get tired!

What if I pick an appointment time that’s too short? Sometimes therapists will let you extend your appointment - meaning if you start with a half hour and realize you need more work, you can ask if you can extend to an hour. However this is 100% dependent on the policies of the therapist/company and the therapist’s schedule after your massage. Often if they have an opening after you they may be able to extend an appointment, but a therapist will likely never bump or delay another client just to extend an appointment. If a therapist can’t extend, they may work with you to schedule another appointment at the next earliest availability.

So the answer of which massage length is right for you completely depends on what you are looking for. If you want full-body relaxation, 60 minutes should do it. Just want regular work on those chronic knots in your shoulders? 30 minutes focused on the neck and shoulders should be fine. If you are ever in doubt, just ask your therapist what they recommend.

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