A massage is supposed to help ease stress, not cause it. But booking your first massage can bring up a lot of questions—some of which are borderline embarrassing. Am I supposed to be naked? Will they notice if I haven’t shaved? Am I doing this whole “relaxing” thing all wrong? To help quiet your fears, we spoke to several Saint Louis massage therapists, who shared their thoughts on these and other topics. Hopefully, their answers will put you at ease and help you make the most of your massage experience. What steps should I take to prepare for my massage? The most important pre-massage step, according to the therapists we surveyed? “Hydrate your muscles [so] they’re easier to manipulate,” said Teresa Sorenson, licensed massage therapist (LMT) and owner of Foundations Massage & Wellness. Tamara Dobson, LMT and owner of A Healing Place, echoed that sentiment, adding this helpful tip: “Hydrate the day before but not just before your session, as you may have to interrupt your session to go to the restroom.” The therapists also agreed that it’s not a good idea to eat before a massage, since you want your body to be relaxed and not working hard to digest a heavy meal. And an empty stomach, of course, means you won’t have to worry about any embarrassing noises interrupting your quiet time. Does it make more sense to exercise before or after a massage? The therapists we spoke to were split on this point. Arijana Ford, the owner of Harmony Massage, recommends exercising after, since a massage can help warm up muscles in preparation for a workout. Sorenson, however, noted that a massage “also helps move out the lactic buildup caused by a workout.” What are clients typically embarrassed about that they needn't be? Massage therapists work on clients of all ages, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, so they’ve seen it all. The one thing they absolutely could not care less about: unshaved legs. “Really, we don’t even notice,” Dobson said. What are some common inconsiderate or rude things clients do? Being late or canceling at the last minute is, understandably, a major source of frustration for massage therapists, and our experts agreed. Dobson recalled one time when she turned down a new client, only to have the client she had already booked become a no-show. The client she turned down went on to purchase a large massage package with a different therapist. “That no-show literally cost me over $1,600!” Ouch. But you shouldn’t just be considerate to your massage therapist—taking the well-being of other clients into account is important, as well. If you’re sick, Dobson said it’s a good idea to let the therapist know so that they can decide whether they feel comfortable exposing themselves and their other clients to your germs. How far should I undress? Is there any benefit to being totally nude during a massage? Ford recommends clients be completely nude during their massage, noting that bodies are typically draped to protect their modesty. Being totally nude, she added, helps with circulation. “Yes, there are benefits to being nude,” Dobson said. “Without the encumbrance of clothing, the therapist can glide all the way up the iliotibial band (ITB) through the ribs creating a greater flow in the session.” However, she also stresses that clients should undress only “to their comfort level.” “Most leave on their underwear,” Sorensen said, “but it’s more effective when everything is removed.” Should I make small talk during the massage? Awkward silences can be, well, awkward. But all three of the professionals we spoke to agreed that, when it comes to massage, silence is golden. “I encourage therapists and clients to utilize this time of healing by quieting the mind and breathing deeper, letting go of outside distractions,” Dobson said. Many clients feel the need to talk about their jobs, but “it's really the last thing you want to be thinking about,” she said. “This is your time, take advantage of every minute you can.”
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