Should My Massage Therapist Be a Man or a Woman?

Male and Female Massage Therapists

One of the first questions that comes to mind when scheduling a massage, especially a first one, or one at a new location such as a vacation spa is: “Should I specifically request a man or a woman massage therapist?”

Is one better than the other, or is one more trained in certain techniques, such as deep tissue or sports massage?

The quick answer is you can ask for whatever you wish and, depending on where you go, they may or may not be able to accommodate you, though most will try their best to make you comfortable.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, there are many more female massage therapists than there are men. Women make up about 85 percent of all massage therapists, and about 75 percent of all spa-goers (which is where most massages are received) are female. This percentage may be slightly higher among those who go to massage therapists who work on their own.

Because massage therapy can, at first, be a bit intimidating, many questions will arise for both men and women. Will a male therapist be more able to do bodywork that needs a stronger touch, such as trigger point therapy? Will a female be more adept at Shiatsu or Swedish massage? A male client might wonder if having a male therapist will threaten his sexuality, or if a female therapist might result in arousal. A woman client might feel threatened or intimidated by a male, or think a female therapist might only offers a gentler touch.

Culture or religion may also play a role in preference and comfort levels. Someone growing up in a more liberal European culture may have no preference, while someone from the Middle East may have strong feelings about choice. With religion, for example, some such as Jewish Orthodoxy or Islam, restrict contact between people of opposite sexes who are not related.

Both male and female massage therapy students receive the same education. Each individual therapist has his or her own style of using what he or she has learned. A small woman may be able to offer deep tissue massage, because she can use the weight of her whole body. A man might have a lighter touch because he feels this is better therapeutically. Their education also instructs them in which techniques are better for certain conditions, and how to customize a massage session for the client’s needs, whether it be for stress reduction, pain relief or better mobility.

As clients become more experienced in getting a massage, they usually care less about if their therapist is male or female and more about how good the therapist is with various modalities and techniques.

So make your appointment and, when you arrive, remember to communicate with your massage therapist so he or she may give you a personalized therapeutic massage of healing and relaxation.