My First Massage

What if you recently received a gift certificate for a massage, or you finally decided it’s time to go for a massage because of those achy muscles – but you’ve never experienced a professional massage before? Would you know what to expect?

Depending on what statistics you look at, anywhere from 30-50 percent of Americans have had a massage. This means there are still many individuals who have never been to a massage therapist; someone going to a massage therapist for the first time is not alone in the experience.

What you can expect from your first massage may differ somewhat from one therapist to the next. There will also be a difference depending on what kind of facility you go to. Is it a private practice, a medical office or some kind of wellness center, such as a spa?

The first thing you need to do is to make an appointment with the massage therapist. Most therapists work along the same lines as a doctor’s office. They don’t take walk-ins. This is especially true of a massage therapist with a private practice. They often act as their own receptionist and can’t be in two places at the same time.

Facilities with multiple practitioners also usually like to make advance appointments, but can be open to same day appointments or walk-ins, depending on how booked the schedule is and if there are massage therapists available.

No matter where you get your massage, the massage therapist should do an “intake,” which consists of asking questions about your health and any medication you are taking – even herbal supplements and vitamins. In a medical-type facility your intake will be longer than if you go to a spa.

The intake information will often give the massage therapist an idea of the type of massage you will receive. Certain medical conditions eliminate certain types of massage. You also need to let the massage therapist know what you want out of the massage. Is it reduction of stress, simple relaxation, an easing of muscular aches and pains, improvement of circulation?

Depending on what type of massage you get, you will be given different instructions. For example, a full body Swedish massage will require you to remove as much clothing as you are comfortable with. During the massage you will be on a padded massage table and your body will be covered with a sheet or large towel. The body part being worked on is the only part exposed. This generally means an arm, a leg or your back.  Massage therapists must abide by strict laws when it comes to draping, or covering, their clients.

There are also several techniques where the client remains clothed. Many of these are Eastern in origin and involve acupressure, such as Shiatsu and Thai massage. These techniques are usually performed on a thick floor mat.

The massage itself will consist of gliding, kneading or thumping techniques in the case of traditional Swedish massage, and the therapist will use some kind of oil or crème to reduce friction when moving along the skin. With a technique such as Shiatsu, the therapist will apply gentle stretches and finger pressure to various points on your body. These points are the same points used in such practices as acupuncture.

Other massage techniques are usually variations or combinations of Swedish and Eastern modalities. If you are feeling nervous, let your massage therapist know. Ask questions if you are curious.

Whatever type of bodywork you decide on, your first massage should be a relaxing, stress-free experience. Enjoy!