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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

What do I wear? And All Those Other Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask About Massage

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What do I wear? And All Those Other Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask About Massage

If you are anything like us, you have often wished you had a close confidant that you could ask awkward questions to. Preferably this person would be well versed in all of the embarrassing medical knowledge that you are dying to know but too afraid to ask. As wellness providers, we recognize that most of our clients have these questions plaguing their minds, but don’t know how to approach the topic. We decided to be proactive about it and answer the questions those brave few have dared to ask in order to benefit everyone.


            When receiving massage, it is common to feel self-conscience or vulnerable. Afterall, your massage therapist sees a lot more of you than most of the people in your inner circle ever do. It is hard to trust your body to the care of another person, especially if this is your first time meeting them. A few common first-time questions we are asked include:

·         Should I take off my bra/underwear/socks? That is completely up to you. Typically, a therapist will tell you to undress to your comfort level and we realize this means different things to different people. We have definitely re-entered a room where the client is still fully clothed and laying face down. In this case, we would advise you to at least take off your shirt and pants in order for us to really address the areas you asked for. Honestly, we do prefer for you to be completely naked because it makes our job easier. It is hard to work around a bra, especially if your complaint is back and shoulder pain; we really need access to that area. As far as underwear goes, it is so much easier to relieve hip and low back pain if we can really dig into your glutes and fabric really prevents that. I guess the long and short answer is; we don’t care what you keep on or take off, but it is easier for us to work on you if you are fully undressed. However, we do understand that some people are not comfortable in that state, so we never judge.

·         Don’t your hands get tired? No, we have studied and practiced for many hundreds of hours in order to build up our strength. As our own Jeremy Falconburg puts it, “We don’t use our hands exclusively…or just treat people’s backs. Massage is a form of art in motion – leverage, physics, rhythm, cadence, temperance.” We train to use leverage more than anything else and this is why our hands can handle the heat; we use our arms, our fingers, our hands, body leverage, and even the occasional tool to massage, it’s not “all in the wrists” as one would say.

·         Are bigger people harder to massage? No, again, we are all trained to use our body’s own leverage in order to provide as many people as possible with their ideal massage. Your size really doesn’t matter because, not only are you laying on a table making size a bit of a moot point, but we are trained in how to reach deep muscle whether it be under more muscle or layers of fat. Massage tables are also height adjustable so that helps out with leverage.

·         Can you massage my stomach? Absolutely, we are trained to massage any area that has muscle so that means your entire body. We have no problem with massaging feet, abdomen, face, chest, buttocks, and even inside your mouth. In fact, those lesser worked on areas are usually what needs the most work because they are so ignored. Many people fail to realize the many connections the muscular system has. Suffer from headaches and neck massage hasn’t helped? Maybe it’s time to work inside the mouth. Back pain and no one has seemed to be able to help? This is when we would massage your glutes and abdomen as your psoas can play a key role in low back pain. Feet don’t bother us either. No matter how gross someone’s feet might be, we still have access to soap and running water so we will massage them.

Ok, so you covered the basic questions, what about the more embarrassing things? Let’s address the body’s natural reaction to relaxation. Every body reacts differently so it is logical to think that every body would also relax differently. Everything from drool to farts to erections can happen during a relaxed state and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

·         What if I fall asleep? If you asked for a relaxing massage, it is a complement to your therapist if you fall asleep. We are here to help you achieve your massage goals and if you want to relax or are in need of sleep, feel free to take a nap.

·         What if I accidently get an erection? Some men can become aroused when relaxed and we understand that. You have no control over where your blood flows when you are receiving massage. Your therapist can tell that it wasn’t purposeful and we have ways of diverting blood flow in order to make an erection go away.

·         What if I can’t relax because I don’t want to pass gas? Passing gas is a natural (and healthy) part of life. Every living creature on this planet passes gas in some form. We usually ignore it and continue on with our work. We understand it is yet another aspect of being relaxed and you cannot control it so burp, fart, cough, sneeze, and drool; we don’t mind.

·         Drooling is also another uncontrollable aspect of relaxation. Again, it’s a compliment if you are relaxed enough to lose control of your saliva.

·         I don’t want to fall asleep because I feel like I won’t benefit from my massage if it isn’t stimulating. Whoever told you massage can’t be relaxing and beneficial at the same time is 100% incorrect. In fact, you may benefit even more from being relaxed because you aren’t preventing the therapist from accessing deeper muscle layers. Relaxing massage isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to hurt in order to benefit. If you are not comfortable, speak up.


Let’s move on from the relaxing questions and address the burning question on everyone’s mind; smell. Many people worry about taking a shower, shaving, putting cologne on, or even receiving manicures and pedicures before a massage.

·         What if I haven’t showered yet today? As long as you weren’t running an ultra-marathon in the Sahara Desert without deodorant, we don’t care. Honestly, we will be covering you in lotion anyway so you may want to shower after your massage anyway. Why shower twice? Save water and skip it. If we massage your scalp you will need to wash your hair so don’t even bother shampooing before a massage. Do your workout at the gym and head in for a massage, it really doesn’t bother us.

·         What do you do if someone smells? Usually, people can smell themselves before other people can smell them so if you think you stink, we may not even smell you. If you really do stink though, there are a few ways we deal with it. First would be to just ignore it, your nose becomes used to a scent and blocks it out after a couple of minutes. Second would be to put essential oils in a diffuser to freshen up the room. Do essential oils in the room always mean your smell is offensive to us? No, sometimes we just felt like we needed some peppermint and lemongrass in the air. A third option is to put something under our nose to block the smell. A dab of essential oil or tiger balm on the upper lip usually does the trick.

·         Speaking of not showering, I didn’t shave my legs. Is that ok? Of course it is! Most men don’t shave their legs ever and we aren’t weirded out by that. You are here to receive a massage, not criticism or judgement. Hair doesn’t bother us; it is a natural part of the body and we think bodies are beautiful and fascinating; that is why we do what we do. You don’t have to shave your back, legs, chest, or armpits for us. In fact, we prefer you don’t shave your back as the stubble can irritate our hands and forearms when we work on you. Just be you, we accept you as you are.


Ok, we covered everything body related and now it is time to talk atmosphere. Where you get massage is just as important as who you receive it from. We want you to be comfortable and relaxed in every aspect and the atmosphere can play a key role in that.

·         What if I don’t like the music? Ask your therapist to change it. Nothing in the atmosphere of the room should ruin your massage experience. It is always best to speak up if something bothers you; we cannot read minds.

·         I don’t like the position of the face cradle, bolster, blanket, etc. Again, just speak up. We try to check in with you throughout the session to ensure you are still comfortable, but sometime we get in the zone and forget to ask. Maybe you said you were comfortable when we asked but now you are not, don’t be afraid to speak up. We can remove the blanket, adjust the face cradle, turn the heat down, whatever makes your experience more pleasant.

·         Can we change the pressure of the massage? Absolutely! Sometimes what feels great on your back doesn’t feel so great on your legs. Always make the therapist aware if you are uncomfortable and want to change something. We will not be offended. If you think we didn’t spend enough time in one area, ask to revisit it. We can always speed up, slow down, go back, move on, whatever allows you to get the most out of your massage is what we want to provide.

·         How do I ask for glute/mouth/abdomen work without sounding creepy? We have had situations where we really liked what the therapist in our last massage did but don’t know how to approach the topic with someone new. Usually the best way is to say something like “The last therapist I saw worked on my butt and it really helped my back. Can you do that as well?” It’s a professional question and we will gladly oblige.

·         I really love my massage therapist but my friend/spouse/coworker said their therapist does amazing neck work and I would really like to try it. Will my therapist be mad that I saw someone else? Absolutely not, we welcome you trying new therapists. We understand that it isn’t always the best fit or that we may not be resolving all of the issues you want so feel free to seek another therapist that can. Not every therapist is trained in the same modalities so we may even recommend someone else to you that can help beyond what we offer. As long as you are still receiving the work that your body needs, we won’t be upset.

·         What is an appropriate amount to tip my therapist? This is a question with many answers. First, ask yourself where you receive massage. If your therapist runs their own private practice or works out of a medical facility, they receive a greater portion of the charge so they don’t usually expect a tip, but it is always gratefully accepted. If you go to a spa or corporate chain, these companies have a lot of overhead costs so the therapists don’t receive as much as they would in a private practice and it is customary to tip more. You also need to think about what you can afford and how much you enjoyed the session. We understand that people aren’t made of money so whatever amount you give is appreciated. All that being said, it is customary to tip anywhere from 15-20 percent. You can always tip more if you felt your therapist went above and beyond.


We hope this helps to ease any anxiety you may have about massage. Know that these are common questions and you are not alone in asking them. We do hope that you will now use this knowledge to help those around you that are curious as well. As always, we look forward to seeing you for your next massage.

About the Author

Kelsey Luft

Kelsey was raised in Arvada, Colorado. The youngest child of four, her parents and siblings always taught her that knowledge is power and made it a point to make weekly trips to the library. She has always been hungry to learn and from a young age she could typically be found with a book or article in hand. At the age of 12 she discovered Jane Austen and has kept a deep love for classic British literature ever since. A published poet at the age of 13, Kelsey found her passion for writing early on in life. It wasn’t until 2013, after Symmetry showcased an article she wrote on the positive effects of bee pollen, that she made the decision to return to school to pursue a degree in English with an emphasis in publishing. In 2018, Kelsey graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. She was under the tutelage of many amazing professors who introduced her to some of the 21st centuries greatest poets and authors. In 2017, She served an internship for the esteemed Duquesne University Press under Rebecca Totaro PhD and in 2018 she briefly edited a novel for a local author in the New England area. Kelsey is proud to return to Symmetry as a writer and editor.