9 Massage Etiquette Questions You May Be Too Embarrassed to Ask

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Are you at the point where your stress levels are so high that you are ready to burst out of your comfort zone and have a massage? Sometimes not knowing the proper etiquette when having a massage can cause stress! Do you tip a massage therapist? How much clothing should you remove? Whether you’re a massage newbie or have a specific question, here are the top questions you may be reluctant to ask.

At Untapped: Health, Fitness and Recovery, we are providing massages in a clinical environment so we do not accept tips. If your massage is in other medical or clinical environment, tips may be accepted but not expected. If you’re unsure, ask the clinic receptionist or massage therapist whether tipping is customary. If you don’t want to ask in person, call ahead to ask. If tips are accepted, 20 percent tip is standard. If you were given a gift certificate or purchased a deal through a discount site, a tip based on the original price is customary. You can leave the tip in the massage room on the table, hand it to your therapist or give it to the receptionist to give to your therapist.

“No Pain no Gain” is a myth (even deep tissue massage) Pain during a massage isn’t a sure sign that the massage is helping. In fact, pain can cause muscles to inflame, making it harder for the massage therapist to ease tense areas. Certain techniques, like trigger point therapy, usually cause soreness. Correcting a soft tissue problem (such as adhesions, tight attachments, and trigger points) can also cause some discomfort. However, if you don’t have a soft tissue condition, a massage shouldn’t cause soreness or pain.

Open communication with your massage therapist is key to a massage that meets your needs. If you have an injury or chronically tight or painful areas, be sure that your therapist is aware of it before the start of the session. If the pressure is too intense, tell your massage therapist immediately so he or she can ease up.

Typically, a massage therapist will ask you to undress to your level of comfort. Many people prefer to keep their underwear on during a massage, while others prefer to undress completely. It’s up to you. Women usually remove their bras to allow the massage therapist to work on the back and shoulder area without getting massage oil or lotion on the bra. If your problem area is your low back, hips or buttocks, tight-fitting or large underwear can sometimes get in the way of massage work. You can ask your massage therapist before getting changed.

In North America, if you do remove your underwear, licensed massage therapists must ensure that you are always properly covered by a sheet or towel. The massage therapist will leave the room so that you can remove your clothing and lie on the massage table (usually face down) under the top sheet. In North America, you shouldn’t worry that the massage therapist will walk in on you; they should knock and ask if you are ready before entering the massage room.

How much clothing you remove also depends on the type of massage you’re getting. If you prefer keeping your clothes on, opt for massage styles like Sports or Thai massage, which are usually done fully clothed.

Being self-conscious shouldn’t keep you from seeking health care, whether it’s visiting your doctor or seeing a massage therapist. A professional massage therapist will be non-judgmental and focused on your muscles (and other soft tissue).

Still, some common concerns clients have are:

  • Having back acne
  • Believing they are overweight
  • Forgetting to shave their legs
  • Being self-conscious about scars

You can request that the massage therapist avoid certain areas. Or, you can look for a licensed massage therapist who uses a style of massage that can be done through clothing. No massage oil or lotion is used, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment. If you didn’t have time to shave your legs, not to worry. Whether or not there is hair on your leg is of no concern to your massage therapist.

Although some people prefer to talk throughout the massage, don’t feel like you have to make conversation with the massage therapist. After all, you’re having a treatment; you’re not at a cocktail party. Many people close their eyes and try to relax. Your massage therapist should take the cue from you.

Deep tissue massage and sports massage are just some of the types of massage that require more feedback. The massage therapist often works on deeper layers of muscle and will want to ensure that the pressure is comfortable.

Be sure to speak up during a massage if you:

  • Feel too hot or cold
  • Are in pain
  • Have any questions about the massage
  • Forgot to mention a health issue during the consultation

Falling asleep during a massage is very common. For many Massage Therapist, it’s a compliment! Many people go into a massage stressed and sleep-deprived and feel so relaxed that they fall asleep on the massage table. Your therapist won’t judge you if you snore during the massage.

When you wake up, you may notice a little drool on your face or on the massage table. It’s common and has to do with your positioning on the massage table. You don’t have to do anything about it, but you should feel free to ask for a tissue.

This will cut into your massage time so going to the bathroom before the massage is ideal. If you need to use the bathroom during the massage, be sure to let the massage therapist know. Holding it for the duration of the massage isn’t comfortable or conducive to relaxing. At Untapped: Health, Fitness and Recovery we have a bathroom connected to the massage room. It’s very easy for the therapist to step out.

Let your massage therapist know if you’re ticklish before your massage begins. Usually, firm, slow pressure (and avoiding certain spots) can keep you from feeling ticklish during a massage.

If you’re trying a new clinic or spa, it’s a good idea to call first and ask these questions:

  • Do you offer therapeutic massage?
  • Is the massage therapist certified or licensed?
  • Do you require a Health Intake Form of your clients?

A licensed massage therapist will not come into contact with your genitals or make sexual comments during the massage. If they do, report them to the Idaho Board of Massage Therapy immediately.