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  • Liz Jester

Your most awkward massage questions, answered.

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

It's officially no-shave November! In honor of this worthy cause, I've decided to answer common questions about massage that people often feel too awkward to ask, like, "should I shave my legs before my massage?"

The answer, by the way, is no. Your massage therapist really doesn't care.

"How much do I have to undress for my massage?"

The short answer is, however much you do or don't want to. Your massage therapist will ask you to undress to your level of comfort, and then will step out of the room for you to do so. You will be covered by a sheet and a blanket the whole time, and only the area your massage therapist is working on will be uncovered. If you have upper back and shoulder tension, you may want to remove your bra so your massage therapist can work the entire back. If your problem area is in your hips, low back, we may need to do more specific hip/glute work, and underwear might get in the way of it. But if you want to leave an article of clothing on, we will work around it without a problem. There are many effective clothed massage techniques we can use.

"What if I feel self-conscious about my body?"

I can't tell you how many times people apologize to me because their toenails are unpainted or they think they have ugly feet, or a scar, or something else that I didn't think twice about. Your massage therapist is a professional who works day in and day out with the human body. If there's one thing we learn in this profession, it's that the human body is an amazing creation. And the other thing we learn is, there's no such thing as a "perfect" body. Acne, scars, extra weight, stretch marks, moles, cellulite, etc. etc., are so incredibly normal. All we care about is that you are on the journey to health. And that looks different on every body. We are here to join you on that journey, not to judge you. We are imperfect, too.

"Do you really massage people's butts?"

Well yes, and they're called "gluteals" or "glutes," because it's actually a group of three muscles. We view the body in a clinical sense, and yes, we do massage glutes when people are having low back, leg, hip, or glute pain. If you don't feel comfortable with it, but are having associated pain, that's okay. We can work over the blanket and sheets for more comfort. And of course, you can always say no, and we'll respect that.

"Should I make conversation during the massage?"

If you want to, you are more than welcome to. As a courtesy, your massage therapist will generally not initiate conversation during the session, as people often want to close their eyes and relax in quiet. We will take the cue from you. Your massage session is your massage session. You do what helps you relax and enjoy. The only time you absolutely should say something, is if anything hurts, is uncomfortable, you are too hot or cold, etc. We want you to speak up. You won't hurt our feelings. We will be glad you've advocated for yourself and helped us help you.

"Do I tip the massage therapist? How much?"

This differs everywhere. Gratuities are never required. However, in spas, hotels, and establishments with employees, tips are appreciated. It is customary to tip 20% if you were pleased with the service. Think food service -- the range is the same, 15-20% generally. If you were given a gift certificate or discount, tipping based on the original price is customary. Some solo practitioners do accept tips, but others don't. In clinical and medical settings, tips are often not expected or even accepted. It is always appropriate to ask your massage therapist or the receptionist if you aren't sure if a tip is expected. At my practice, tipping is appreciated, but it isn't expected. If you feel moved to tip, that's completely fine; if you aren't able to or don't want to, that's also completely fine.

"What if I fall asleep and snore/drool etc.?"

We don't care. It happens all the time. Remember, we relax people for a living! When your nervous system enters a state of rest and digest, sleep and digestion happen. It's just a normal physiological thing that happens to all humans. Also, hearing you snore is one of the best compliments ever for a massage therapist.

"What if I have to use the restroom during my session?"

Just let us know! Holding it isn't very relaxing. Some massage therapists have robes available for this reason, but if not, you can just put your clothes on and go. Especially during Manual Lymphatic Drainage sessions, needing to pee halfway through the session is pretty normal.

"What if my feet are ticklish?"

Just tell us. We'll either avoid your feet if you ask us to, or we'll use more pressure on them to avoid tickly sensations.

What other questions do you have? Leave them in the comments below :)

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