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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

What do I need to know before my first massage? (Part 2: The Don'ts)

What do I need to know before my first massage? (Part 2: The Don'ts)

Your first massage appointment can be a little intimidating, but if you are honest with your therapist, and listen to what the company or therapist requests of you, you should have no trouble. However, sometimes there are a few things massage therapists would prefer that you not do before or during your first massage, but they may not seem like things that people would regularly think about. Let's discuss a few things that you don't want to do during your massage.

1. Don't schedule an appointment if you don't intend to keep it - There can be lots of reasons that you may not be able to keep an appointment, but sometimes people will make an appointment at one place to "get something scheduled", then keep searching around to see if they can get in someplace different sooner (or cheaper), so they end up cancelling the first appointment. Cancellations can create chaos in a therapist's schedule, especially if it happens so close to the appointment time that they can't rebook or fill the slot. Plus, if an appointment that isn't intended to be kept is on the books, it could block out another client who really needs the appointment. Understandably, stuff comes up and appointments may need to be cancelled, but please take the appointment seriously and do your best not to cancel it if possible.

2. Don't fight with a company for upholding their policies - Often a company has policies in regards to things such as cancellation fees, deposits, paperwork, resolution of issues, or other routine rules. The hardest thing for companies or therapists to deal with is someone who wants to fight with them because they don't like a certain policy. There is an old adage that "the customer is always right" however, companies put policies in place to protect their businesses, not to screw you over. Sometimes the protection is for lost income, or legal requirements to fulfill their license, or it is for the safety of their employees or therapists. The policies are there for a reason, and it won't make you a favorite client if you chose to fight a company on their policies just because you may feel that the policies don't apply to you.

What do I need to know before my first massage? (Part 2: The Don'ts)

3. Don't show up dirty - Please shower before your appointment or at least wipe down your feet/sweat. Massage therapists do not judge bodies. Fat, thin, hairy, scars, tattoos, wrinkles - no matter. But one thing that does make it a little more difficult for a therapist is if that body is unwashed, smelly, sweaty, or dirty. It could make the therapist unable to reach and manipulate the muscles properly, or in the case of dirt, could potentially spread bacteria or move the dirt into an area it shouldn't be like an open hangnail or scratch. If you have to come straight from a physically demanding job or workout, that is understandable, just do your therapist a kindness and stop in the restroom and wipe down the more unclean areas so they have a good, sanitary surface to work on.

4. Don't leave on loads of jewelry - The standard request for a massage is that you will be asked to "disrobe to your comfort level" meaning you can leave on a bra, underwear, or anything that makes you comfortable while still allowing the therapist to get to the skin and muscles that they need to manipulate. While clothing gets most of the attention, jewelry is often forgotten until it is too late. Multiple or bulky necklaces, big dangle earrings, bracelets, or large watches can make it difficult for a therapist to get to certain muscle groups. This makes for an interrupted massage that doesn't flow smoothly and is less relaxing. Plus, it puts the therapist at risk of possibly snagging or snapping a chain if they have to move it. Best to take off any jewelry that you can before the massage.

5. Don't keep quiet if you are uncomfortable - Some people, especially during a first massage, don't really know what to expect in terms of pressure, stretches, etc. so it can be difficult to know if something is happening as it is supposed to be. The primary rule of massage is that it shouldn't hurt or be uncomfortable, however the therapist may not know how you are feeling, so you need to speak up. If you are cold, ask for a blanket. If a certain stretch doesn't feel right, speak up and say it's too much. If a massage stroke over a certain area is painful, ask to lighten the pressure. Massage shouldn't be painful - "No Pain, No Gain" does not apply to massage. Do not be in the mindset that it has to hurt to be effective. Everyone's tolerance is different, but especially when you are with a new therapist that doesn't know your body, it is important to have open communication and dialogue with your therapist so you can both be on the same page.

What do I need to know before my first massage? (Part 2: The Don'ts)

6. Don't make 'Happy Ending' or other lewd jokes - This is often something that is included in many company policies that will get your appointment stopped immediately, and even get the police called. Massage Therapists are very frequently having to deal with the stigma that massage is a front for sexual services, and legitimate, medically trained, licensed therapists do not find it funny. It can also be dangerous for therapists, which is why the zero tolerance policies are there. While people like to echo what is seen in sitcoms, sports, and other media, it isn't funny, and will get your appointment cancelled, get you banned from that business, or could even result in the therapist calling the cops for harassment or solicitation charges. Just simply, don't do it.

7. Don't tell your therapist the massage was fabulous and then write a scathing review - Therapists genuinely want to do the best for their clients - they wouldn't be practicing if they didn't. They want to be sure that your goals for the appointment were met and your experience was good. But once again, communication is key. When asked at the end of an appointment if everything was ok, be honest. If something wasn't to your liking, the therapist wants to know so that they can fix it, not have you leave, believing that everything was fine, only to wake up to a scathing review the next day that everything was wrong. Be honest - kindly, please - at the time of your massage, or contact the therapist privately afterwards to give them a chance to resolve the issue. Many service providers live and die by reviews, so the last thing they need is bad review that they didn't see coming or didn't have an opportunity to fix. Be honest and open to communication to resolve any issues.

So a first massage appointment doesn't have to be so intimidating that you never start getting massages. Basically just know to be open to how you communicate with your therapist, and respect them and their business. Then your first massage will be the start of many on your path to good health.

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