Ask a Massage Therapist
By: Christa Sperry RMP, RYT-200
I get a lot of interesting questions in my line of work. I see bodies of all ages, shapes, ability, and color. Some people come to me never having had a massage before, others have been receiving bodywork for decades. Whether you have had a plethora of massage sessions before or not, there might be some questions you have that maybe you’ve never felt comfortable asking. Fear not! I will share with you some of the most common questions I have had clients ask me over years with the hopes that it may ease your mind the next time (or first time) you step into my office.
1. Do I have to be naked?
Not at all! My rule is that you undress to your own personal level of comfort. For some, undressing is either difficult or triggering and in those cases I can absolutely perform massage over your clothing. Certain areas of the body (such as the back, arms, and hamstrings) respond better with skin to skin massage but there are still plenty of methods (compression, stretching, etc.) I can employ if you wish to remain clothed.
TIP: If you know ahead of time you might like to keep your clothes on, I would suggest wearing clothing that resembles casual gym or yoga attire as opposed to jeans, bulky sweaters, or blouses.
2. I am a woman and didn’t shave, is that ok? OR I am a man and have a fair amount of body hair, is that ok?
Of course it is. Body hair is completely natural on a woman or man. In the event that you have a fair amount of body hair, I simply use more massage oil to reduce friction or pulling the hair in order to make sure that you are comfortable.
3. I have PTSD/anxiety/panic attacks, can I still get a massage and would it be good for me?
Yes! And thank you for sharing that with me. Information like this allows me to give you a massage that is tailored to your needs. Anxiety and trauma can affect the way you feel during a massage, especially since you will be in a state of undress in a dark room with me, a stranger. Though massage is meant to be therapeutic and relaxing, it can make some feel vulnerable. I am happy to work with you in many ways to make sure that no matter what, you are able to relax and reap the benefits massage has on the muscles and nervous system (two things that are usually overworked in individuals with anxiety and trauma). During your massage you can keep your eyes open, we can keep the lights on, and I will always let you know where I am in relation to you.
TIP: By sharing this information with me before we begin, I know to be hyper-aware during the session of any changes in your body language, breathing, muscle tone, etc. in order to be of service to you if you start feeling uncomfortable. I can turn the lights on, change the music, change the position your body is in on the table, stop touching you, talk with you, listen to you, whatever you need.
4. Why are you asking me questions about my life, I’ve had massage before and they never asked me questions about these things?
Many things go into making sure you get the most well-rounded session I can offer. The more I know about what you do for a living, what you like to do for fun, your stress level, how often you travel, any past or current injuries, the quality of your sleep, medications you’re taking, blood pressure, current mindstate, etc., the more informed choices I can make about being of service to you on your wellness journey. This also keeps you engaged and aware of how your daily life affects the way you feel in your body.
TIP: With a fuller picture of what it’s like to be you, I will also be able to offer suggestions for how you can help yourself in between our sessions to make sure you get the most out of our time together.
5. Am I oversharing?
I would never pressure you to share more than you were comfortable with, and I am happy to listen to whatever you want to share that you feel will be relevant to us having a successful massage session.
TIP: Like all massage therapists, I am bound by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and what is shared with me in the privacy of our session stays private.
6. I wear a wig, can I keep it on?
Absolutely. I have had many clients that wear wigs or hairpieces during our session. Just let me know beforehand so that I work around your head, neck, and face appropriately.
7. I have severe pain and took painkillers before I arrived to my session, can I still get a massage?
When we use anything to numb or block the pain receptors in our body, it can give a false sense of how uncomfortable or painful anything else might be. In order to keep you safe and comfortable, always let me know whenever you have taken any sort of pain killer (even tylenol or ibuprofen) before our session so that I can adjust the pressure used during our massage.
8. Do I have to talk OR can I talk during my session?
You do not have to talk at all during your session, likewise, I am happy to chat with you about whatever is on your mind. The only thing I ask from you in terms of verbal communication is that you inform me if anything about the massage could be better for you (more pressure, less pressure, etc.). This is especially important to do DURING the massage, not after as at that point it’s too late. I do my best to read body language and pick up non-verbal cues, but you know your body best. Please don’t be afraid to speak to what you want during our session.
9. Why are you massaging my hamstrings when I told you I had low back pain?
This question comes up in many forms (why massage my shoulder when I told you I have arm pain? Etc.). And the simple answer is: because the body is a unit, not simply a bunch of separate, individual parts. Underneath our skin we have muscles, nerves, organs, bones, blood, lymph, hormones, fascia, and trillions of cells working tirelessly to keep us going into the future. We are not just ‘back pain’ or ‘arm pain’, we are complex organisms with histories living in the present moment. Therefore, there can be many contributing factors to the pain or discomfort you feel manifested in one area of the body. For instance, tight hamstrings can contribute to low back pain and arm pain and numbness might actually be coming from the brachial plexus around the neck and shoulders, so working in those areas as well might be of benefit.
I am always happy to field your questions and concerns, believe me, nothing is too far out! I will always do my best to work with you as an individual, because you, your body, your history, and your present are unique to YOU. What works for others, may not be best for you - and even that can change from day to day. So the next time (or first time) you step into my office, let’s sit, maybe with some tea and have a chat! I look forward to meeting you where you are.