Here are some of the most common questions asked about massage therapy. If you have a question about massage that is not listed here, please feel free to
send a message.
What should I expect during my first massage therapy visit?
When should I get a massage?
When should I NOT get a massage?
Do I have to be completely undressed?
What parts of my body will be massaged?
What do I do during a massage treatment?
How long will a massage treatment last?
Will the massage hurt?
What should I expect after my massage?
How often should I get a massage?
How many sessions will I need?
Can I talk during my session?
Do I have to cover myself with a sheet or towel?
What if I fall asleep?
What if I have cellulite/scars/am overweight/am embarrassed about my body?
What if I’m queer or trans?
What if I have a disability?
What is chair massage, anyway?
If I want a really deep massage shouldn’t I see a male therapist?
Do I have to listen to whale calls or flutes during my massage?
What if I get an erection during my massage?
Is tipping the therapist expected?
This is YOUR massage session, and it is what you make of it.
Please, please, please don’t hesitate to speak up during any session. If you want anything changed (pressure, areas worked, position or if you are too hot or too cold) your therapist is happy to do anything she can to keep you comfortable, but unfortunately is not not a mind-reader.
You will not hurt the therapist’s feelings by asking for something that will make you more comfortable. Your therapist wants this to be the best experience for you to relax and enjoy.
Also, what you need or want in one session may be different in another. If you had a full body massage last time, but this time you only want your back/neck/shoulders/arms worked, it’s perfectly fine to ask. You will get so much more out of your sessions if you let us know what will make you feel best while you’re here!
Please arrive ten minutes early for your first appointment. When you arrive, your massage therapist will require you to fill out a health history form. Afterward the therapist will familiarize him/herself with your health history and begin by asking you general questions to establish what areas you would like worked on, if there are any conditions needing to be addressed, and to determine what therapies would best achieve the results you want. The therapist may perform certain assessments and testing to evaluate your condition, especially if you are coming in for therapeutic work with an injury.
It is important to list all health concerns and medications so the therapist can adapt the session to your specific needs without doing any harm. It is also important to list any allergies so the therapist is aware if he/she needs to use a different oil or lotion during the session.
Depending on the primary massage technique used, you may or may not need to fully undress. For a full body massage, most people undress completely. Most importantly, you must feel safe and comfortable, so undress to your personal comfort level. Your therapist will advise you to start the massage lying on your stomach or on your back. If you’re to start on your stomach, there will be a cushioned doughnut-shaped device at one end of the table. This is a face rest, and you should place your face in there. This allows you to be face down, and keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed. If you lay your head on the table and turn it to one side, the muscles in your neck and shoulders won’t be in their relaxed state and won’t be able to receive the best benefits of the massage.
The therapist will leave you in privacy to undress and settle yourself on the padded massage table underneath the sheet and blanket. Many massage therapists utilize a heating pad under the sheets on the table to help you relax. If you find this to be too warm, he/she can turn it off. If you are chilly, feel free to ask them to turn it up or for an additional blanket. Your therapist will knock to ensure you are ready, and then return to the room. He/she may position cushions under your knees, ankles, or neck and place you in a more natural position. The room will be warm and quiet, with soft music to set a relaxing mood.
During the massage, you will be covered with a clean sheet and blanket. Only the area being worked on (ie. back, one leg) will be exposed at any time, and your genitals will never be exposed. Your therapist will apply a lubricant (cream or oil), which is good for your skin and allows the therapist’s hands to glide well on your body and not cause uncomfortable friction. For certain types of bodywork, no lubricant is used. Many lubricants are unscented, but some have a light scent. If you are sensitive to scents, please check with your therapist to ensure an appropriate product is used.
A massage or bodywork session usually begins with relatively gentle pressure to calm your nervous system and begin relaxing superficial tension. Gradually, the therapist will work more deeply to address specific areas. During the massage the therapist may move your arm or leg to facilitate the massage. You should try to relax, let go, and allow him/her to do all the work. Only the body part that is being worked on is uncovered, and your modesty is always maintained. Always let your therapist know if anything is uncomfortable or irritating.
When the massage is over, the therapist will leave the room so you may get dressed.
Any day is a great time to get a massage. You don’t need to wait until you’re stressed or injured. Massage works wonders as preventive care for a person’s body and mind. Instead of waiting until your back hurts from overwork or stress, or the headaches that start at the back of your skull begin to pound, or the stress of every day life is making you feel crazy, get a massage before these things happen. A regular massage is a wonderful way to cope with stress, both physical and emotional, and to keep if from causing discomfort or harm to your body. It is a lot easier to keep yourself pain-free with preventative massage, than it is to treat the pain after an injury has occurred. Keep in mind that you are much more likely to injure yourself when you are under stress, and that stress is a major factor in an incredible number of disorders of the human body. Regular massage is a great way to cope with the mental and physical stresses of life, and to help keep your body running the way it should.
If you have sore muscles or a nagging injury or pain condition, or if you are under a lot of stress, please contact us to see how we can help.
There are few conditions which would prevent you from enjoying some type of massage. If you have any of the following conditions, you should not get a massage (and if you develop any prior to your appointment, let us know and we will be happy to reschedule you):
There are many other conditions for which your therapist may need to adapt his/her techniques (i.e. arthritis or osteoporosis) or avoid an area completely (i.e. minor bruising, cuts or burns). These guidelines are provided to protect you and your massage therapist. You don’t want the massage to make an underlying medical condition worse, and you don’t want to pass anything contagious to the massage therapist.
To ensure your therapist can choose an appropriate type of massage for you, it is important that you fully fill out the health history forms before you begin your first session. The intake form will ask general health questions to rule out any contraindications to massage. It is very important that you inform the practitioner of any health problems, allergies, or medications you are taking. You will be asked at any subsequent visits about any new medical or physical conditions. If you’re not asked, volunteer that information if there is anything the therapist should know.
If you’re unsure about whether a minor condition should prohibit you from getting a massage, call your therapist before your appointment. For some illnesses, other bodywork modalities may work well.
You should undress to the level you are comfortable. The massage therapist will work around the clothes left on the best they can. You should realize that this may mean that certain areas of the body may not be massaged at all, or may only receive minimal work there. Note that you will be covered by a sheet and blanket at all times, with the exception of the area currently being worked on (ie. back, one leg, etc).
For a full body massage, most get completely undressed. However, if you will be more comfortable during the session if you leave your underwear on, that’s fine. The pieces of clothing left on the most often are underpants. Certain styles will allow access to most muscles in the buttocks if they are moved slightly. Underwear that come over the bottom of the buttocks usually mean that little to no work will be done in that area. Some women wear thong underwear to a massage. It allows the therapist access to all of the major buttock muscles, and also allows them the comfort and modesty they prefer.
If removing all your clothes makes you too nervous and unable to relax, then you are not getting the optimal benefit from the session. Your massage therapist will step out of the room to give you privacy to undress and get comfortable on the table underneath the sheet and blanket.
The parts of your body that will be massaged may change from one massage to the next, due to the type of massage you are receiving and the area of your body that is being focused on; the sexually charged areas are the only areas that will never be massaged. The abdomen may be massaged if you are having issues such as constipation, or if you request it. The hips and buttocks are frequently massaged as they are often a culprit in lower back pain. This is sometimes done through the sheet and/or underpants if you are more comfortable that way. The armpit/upper chest area may be touched to help relieve upper back/neck pain.
Remember that a massage therapist has seen and massaged hundreds or thousands of different bodies. They won’t get excited seeing or massaging any part of your body. You’ll find that even on parts of your body you might be nervous about having touched, that the therapist will use the same sure, confident strokes that they’ve used everywhere else.
However, if you are uncomfortable being touched in any area, please let the therapist know ahead of time, if possible. Sometimes a client may not realize they are sensitive about being touched in a particular area until the therapists touches them there – just let your therapist know how you feel; they will be sensitive to your feelings and will avoid the area.
Make yourself comfortable. If your therapist wants you to adjust your position, she/he will either move you or will ask you to move what is needed. Otherwise, change your position anytime to make yourself more comfortable. Yes, you may scratch your nose, adjust your body on the table, etc.
Many people close their eyes and relax completely during a session; others prefer to talk. It’s up to you. It is your massage, and whatever feels natural to you is the best way to relax. Do not hesitate to ask questions at any time.
The average massage treatment lasts approximately one hour. This gives time for a deeply relaxing full body massage, or more in-depth work on a particular area. A half hour appointment only allows time for a partial massage session on a specific area, and are frequently only scheduled as follow-up appointments. Many people prefer a 60- to 90-minute session for optimal results–either therapeutic, relaxation, or (my personal favorite to receive) a combination of both. Always allow relaxation time prior to and after the session; try not to rush yourself as your body adjusts after the treatment.
This depends on the type of massage and the depth of the strokes. A light, relaxing massage that doesn’t probe very deep into the muscles shouldn’t hurt. At the same time, the light massage won’t be able to work out any stress that’s deep within those muscles. A muscle that is relaxed will be supple and soft and won’t hurt when rubbed. With that being said, there is a “feels good” hurt and an “ouch, stop it” hurt. Muscles that are tight, and in many cases have been chronically tight for a long time, may have that “good hurt” feeling with a deeper massage. Think of that “good hurt” as the feeling you get when you stretch a sore muscle during exercise or a yawn. Muscles can be very sore from overuse or tightness, and that good hurt can become painful. A good massage, even a really deep tissue massage, should always stay in the “feels good” hurt range, which is known as therapeutic pain.
Sharp or sudden “ouch” pain can be an indication that the muscle is possibly injured or inflamed and pressure and/or technique should be adjusted. Also, pain can cause you to tighten up and negate the relaxing effects of the massage. The most effective and deepest massage always works with your body’s natural response, not against it. A deep massage with tight muscles may leave some residual soreness the next day, like a good workout might.
When the massage is over, the therapist will leave the room so that you can get dressed in privacy. If you have fallen asleep, he/she will wake you gently. Massage and bodywork can be extremely relaxing, affecting all your body’s systems so be sure to give yourself a moment to re-orient yourself before slowly getting up.
Most people feel very relaxed after a massage. Some experience a significant decrease or freedom from long-term aches and pains. Many feel a little slowed down for a short period and then notice an increase of energy, heightened awareness and increased productivity which can last for days.
If you received a deep massage, you may be slightly sore the next day – much like a good workout at the gym. Sometimes an ice pack, a hot shower, or a soak in the tub will be recommended to help ease this soreness. A bath with Epsom salts can help replenish minerals to your body to aid in further muscular relaxation after a massage. Talk to your massage therapist if you feel more sore than this after a session! He/she may want to adjust the pressure used in future sessions to ensure you are comfortable afterwards.
After your session you should increase your water intake for the remainder of the day. This helps keep your body’s tissues hydrated and healthy, and to flush any waste products removed from the muscles by compression during the massage.
It varies from person to person. Monthly is a great maintenance schedule for most bodies. It keeps the tension from building up so you can feel more comfortable all the time. When someone is going through a stressful time, they may come in more frequently to help manage that stress.
If you are looking to address a specific condition, we have to get you to somewhere you want to maintain first. In this case, it is recommended to go more frequently at first and then slowly taper down to a maintenance schedule to build on each session’s improvement in relief and healing.. Sometimes more frequent shorter sessions can be effective until your goals are met and a maintenance schedule is in place. Frequency of sessions should be discussed with your massage therapist after your treatment when he/she has a better hands-on understanding of your particular muscular issues.
Many massage therapists offer discounts on packages of multiple massages paid or booked in advance to make care more affordable.
Honestly, its hard to say. Every person is unique and every condition is unique to each person. It may take one session or it may take several. You and your therapist will be able to talk more specifically about this after your first session and he/she has had a chance to evaluate your body’s tissues.
Sure, if you’d like to talk go right ahead. The important thing to remember is that this treatment is all about you relaxing and enjoying the experience. Many therapists discourage talking in hopes that you will relax, let your mind float free and enter a state of massage bliss. Depending on the type of massage, your therapist may communicate with you more or less during your treatment–she may explain more of what is going on with your body during a therapeutic treamtent, for example, than a relaxation sesssion.
In many instances, people may feel more relaxed starting off talking, and as the massage progresses, enter quiet states of relaxation.
The important issue here is that there are times when you need to speak up. If the therapist is doing anything to make you uncomfortable, you should let her/him know immediately. Also, let him/her know if you get too warm or too cold, if the room is too bright, or if the pressure needs to be changed (lighter or deeper). If something is not working for you – speak up! It’s OK!
Yes. This is known as draping and in many cases is mandated by law. Once you are undressed and on the table under the top sheet and blanket, the therapist will only uncover the part of your body being worked on.
The genitals (women and men) and breasts (women) will not be uncovered. If the therapist is going to work on a woman’s abdomen, a second towel or sheet will be used to cover the breasts so the main sheet can be moved to expose the abdomen. Abdominal work is only done to address certain conditions, and is discussed with the client before the treatment begins.
It is not uncommon for clients to fall asleep on the table during a relaxing massage. The warmth and release of tension relaxes them right to sleep – especially after a long day at work. I take it as a compliment.
Try not to worry about your body type or appearance. Remember this – massage therapists are professionals and have seen hundreds bodies in every imaginable shape and size, from young to old, and we aren’t there to judge your body… we are here to work on YOUR body, and to do what we can to make this a positive experience for YOU. We have worked on hairy legs and shaven ones, athletic bodies, fat bodies, and thin bodies, bodies with scars and cellulite, bodies with aches and pains.
The only thing we ask is that you maintain basic cleanliness about your body. Try not to come in super sweaty after a workout, but we won’t fault you for getting a little sweaty on your commute.
Cat is particularly passionate about working with the queer and trans communities in the greater Boston area. You will find this to be a safe space with no judgement. The intake form will ask you to fill out your pronouns, and Cat will be respectful of your body and your boundaries.
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Cat has worked with clients of varying abilities. Feel free to contact her at Cat@SansStressMassage.com if you’d like to chat with her more before booking a session. Cat has had lovely sessions with clients who are blind, hard of hearing, and deaf (though she does not speak ASL at this time). Guide dogs are welcome to hang out in the treatment room while we work. Coming soon (April 2016), Sans Stress will have a fully accessible electric lift massage table, making wheelchair transfers much easier.
Chair Massage, sometimes called Seated Massage, takes place in a specially-designed ergonomic chair that supports the client’s body fully–head and neck, arms, knees and buttocks. Sessions take place with the client fully clothed.
The chair is lightweight and folds up for the massage therapist to easily carry. It can be set up pretty much anywhere–an office, break room, at an event, etc. This massage-specific chair also allows the massage therapist to easily tend to trouble spots in the back, neck and shoulders. A typical Chair Massage lasts 10-30 minutes. Some therapists will also do mini “chair-massage-style” sessions on a portable massage table, with the client fully clothed and no draping of sheets or blankets.
To learn more about chair massage, especially in the workplace, look here.
The answer is NO. There is a perception that men give deeper massages than women. This is a myth. While some men do give a deeper massage, there are men who prefer to not work so deep. The same holds true for women.
It is a matter of style, training, and therapist preference. Some therapists prefer not to give really deep sessions while others specialize in this area. If you are looking for a deep massage, it is best to simply ask the therapist if she/he does this type of work. And of course, during your session it is perfectly ok to give the therapist feedback if you would like a lighter/deeper pressure. It’s your session! And remember, massage does not have to hurt to be effective.
No. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) While many therapists play slower, quieter, ‘new age’ type music, you can choose to have different music or no music at all. Studies have shown that music at under 60 beats-per-minute has a calming, relaxing effect on the body and therefore can enhance your experience. However, while this may be true, any music you like to listen to while you relax can be listened to while you get a massage. If it relaxes you and you enjoy it at home, why wouldn’t it do the same during your treatment? Ask your therapist what music he/she has to offer or if it is ok to bring your own from home.
Sometimes it happens. Yet, many men avoid massage for fear this will happen to them, or get a massage but are unable to relax because of this fear. There is no reason to be embarrassed.
Sometimes men get an erection during a non-sexual, therapeutic, full body massage. Touch administered to any part of the body can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and moves the blood through the body, which can result in a partial or complete erection.
An educated, professional massage therapist understands this and it will not be an issue for him/her. If you are still concerned, wearing more fitted underwear (briefs or boxer briefs) will provide more support than traditional boxers. The therapist may offer to cover you with an additional towel for your comfort and privacy, and you may ask him/her to stop touching you for a moment if you feel that would make you more relaxed and comfortable.
Note: If the therapist feels that the session has turned sexual for the client, male or female, he/she may stop the session to clarify the client’s intent, and may decide to end the session immediately.
While any gratuity is always at the discretion of the client, it is customary in many places. The fee you pay for your massage to the therapist or cashier belongs strictly to the business, and the therapist may only receive a percentage of what you pay. While tipping is not required, it is most welcome and goes directly to your massage therapist whether the therapist is the owner, partner or employee of the massage business.
Tipping the person who gave you your massage is a nice gesture if he/she has given you a good massage. If you do decide to give your therapist a tip, the amount to give is entirely up to you. Like in restaurants, average tip for good service is 15-20% of the charge for the particular service the therapist performed.