Getting Your First Massage
Alright my little lovelies, this post is probably seven years in the making. My hesitation in writing it stems from the fear that it will be interpreted as some kind of political statement or moral commentary on various aspects of my profession. As you read, keep in mind that I am not referring to activities performed under the guise of massage therapy, which are illegal in the state of Florida. You know what I am talking about - that kind of "massage". I am also not bringing up the role you could be playing in the perpetuation of modern day slavery and human trafficking, should you partake in such activities. Nope, not talking about any of that. Instead, I want you to understand your role as a consumer, and massage therapy as a profession, so that you can find the massage experience you are looking for.
The Basics of the Massage Therapy Business
Each state (and country for that matter) has their own regulations regarding Massage Therapy. In Florida, we have a Board of Massage Therapy that oversees everything having anything to do with the practice of massage as a business. You can find a lot of detailed info here if you're into that sort of thing. Otherwise, just know that in Florida, a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) studied for 500+ hours, passed a board exam, should have a basic understanding of human anatomy, and should maintain an active license regulated by the Florida Department of Health.
What Are You Expecting?
This is really important. What are your goals for the massage? Are you just trying to pamper and relax? Are you trying to treat an old shoulder injury? Are you looking for assistance with workout recovery? Identify what you want so you will know if the location and massage therapist are the right fit for you. You should be able to ask the facility or LMT about their certifications or specialties.
The Massage Location
When you go to a massage establishment, look around the waiting area. Maybe check out the restroom. Are these areas clean? Is the atmosphere inviting? Do you feel comfortable being there? If you don't, you may not feel comfortable undressed on a table either.
Are you able to talk to your LMT and explain your goals? Do they seem responsive to your needs? An LMT should be able to accommodate requests like "don't work on my feet" or even "light pressure only!" You can also ask about their typical routine, and they should be able to walk you through their massage application. And by the way, if you can't communicate with your LMT for any reason, you should find another LMT. Seriously. If you couldn't communicate with your hairdresser, would you want them to cut your hair?
Cleanliness and comfort are important in the room, too. If you are expecting a quiet, relaxing massage, be sure the room is quiet and relaxing. The LMT will leave the room to let you undress and get on the table. You should be able to undress to your comfort level, but it's not uncommon for LMTs to ask you to remove everything except underwear bottoms. HOWEVER, if you are uncomfortable with that, you can wear as much or as little clothing as you like. I have worked on numerous people through tank tops and tees, yoga pants and sweats. It can be done, and if the LMT can't accommodate, you may wind up being uncomfortable throughout your session.
While you're on the table, you should have sufficient draping over you, in other words, a sheet/blanket/towel that makes you feel comfortable, and not overexposed. The drape is meant to cover everything the LMT is not working on. It is for your modesty AND ours. But if at any point, you feel uncomfortable or exposed, speak up!
Feedback is Encouraged!
Feedback is so important. If you are uncomfortable for any reason - the pressure, the area we are working on, the temperature, the music, the talking, anything - please speak up. You won't hurt our feelings, I promise. I would honestly feel awful if I found out after a session that the client was uncomfortable the whole time. It's our job to make you as comfortable as possible.
Water Water Water
We say it all the time - hydrate! The best time to do that is right after your massage when your circulation has been increased, and the body is flushing out some metabolic waste. This could aid in preventing soreness afterwards. If you have any questions about how you feel, you can contact your LMT.
If you're at the "too long, didn't read" (TL;DR) phase, just know this: Wherever you get your massage, you should feel like your expectations and feedback are acknowledged, your comfort is a priority, and you generally feel good about the decision you made to get one. Enjoy!