First Massage? What to Expect

Do you have questions such as:

  • Do I have to undress completely?
  • Does it hurt?
  • Is there anything I should do to prepare?
  • What will I feel like after?
  • What is the process?

All those questions can be answered with the simple statement – It depends upon your goals and desired outcome. Some clients expect relaxation, some expect pain relief and others expect improved athletic performance.

There are, however, some elements common to all first massage appointments and to after care instructions.

Intake and Consultation

First, you are asked to complete a client intake form. This form alerts the therapist to any special needs, areas of focus or treatment contraindication. Be as thorough as possible and be prepared to briefly discuss any conditions that will impede or improve your massage.

This is a good time to discuss the techniques used and your comfort levels; tolerance to pressure, degree of undress.

Privacy and Comfort

Following a brief consultation in the massage room, the therapist leaves you in privacy to disrobe to your comfort level. There are some massage techniques that can be performed while fully clothed if you are uncomfortable disrobing at all; Shiatsu, for example.

Lie down on the table; usually face down, with your head supported by a padded face cradle. Cover yourself with the sheets provided. You are completely covered while lying on the massage table. Only the area being treated is uncovered.

Room temperature, heating pads and body position are all adjustable. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need for your comfort.

Massage Scope and Technique

A full body massage usually includes: the face and scalp, neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, arms, hands, gluts, legs, and feet. If there are any areas to avoid, let the therapist know in during the consultation.

Most massage therapist use a combination of techniques. Two therapists trained by the same school personalize the techniques and are never exactly the same. Therefore, choosing your therapist is an intensely personal decision. Communication and responsiveness are the keys to a successful relationship with a practitioner.

The techniques applied are determined through the consultation process and by conditions that present themselves during the massage.

The intensity of the work ranges from less physically demanding energy work, such as Reiki and relaxation techniques, to the more deep tissue and pressure point techniques such as shiatsu, Swedish, trigger point therapy, and assisted stretching. The deeper techniques are for injury rehabilitation, improved flexibility and athletic performance.

There should be no intolerable discomfort. The pressure used is to client tolerance, so speak-up if the pressure is too much. That said; there are benefits to tolerating some pain, depending on your desired outcome. If you are there for relaxation – no pain. If you are there for improved athletic performance – no pain/no gain.

Be aware; there is good pain and bad pain. Good pain is pain that is local to the pressure and might move SLOWLY. It is somewhat dull or achy. The best way to manage this type of pain is to breathe through it and let the therapist know if it becomes too much. Bad pain is sharp, shooting pain. This is never good. Stop the technique immediately. You might need treatment from a Chiropractor or physician.

Post Massage Care

Drink plenty of water. A massage can dislodge toxins and waste products from your tissues. Your body uses water as a medium by which to flush them. Your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, your activity level and your environment. A general rule is 8 to 12 – 8 ounce cups per day. Healthy adult kidneys can process fifteen liters of water a day. You will not suffer from water intoxication if you drink a lot of water, provided that you drink it over a span of time. Do not drink large amounts all at once.

Activity level after a massage, again, depends on outcome goals. Plan to relax for the remainder of the day.

Do not plan a competitive athletic event for three days after a deep tissue massage. If that is unavoidable, it is recommended that you do a light workout (30 to 50% of normal workout intensity) before the event. This prevents the muscles and joints from being too lax and vulnerable to injury.

If you have residual pain from a deep massage, use ice to reduce any sore spots.

If you have a headache, it is most likely because you did not drink enough water.

Following these guidelines goes a long way to insuring a positive first massage experience. These processes and technique are employed in our clinic with much success.

Note: This article, written by Kelly Ranger, first appeared  as an Ezine Article: