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How to Behave Before, During, and After a Massage

BY: Shannon Grilli | Feb 3, 2016

How to Behave Before, During, and After a Massage

Although massages are supposed to be about relaxation, many people find themselves anxiously wondering about how to conduct themselves during their treatment. Should you shave your legs? Should you chat with the massage therapist? Just how naked are you supposed to be?

To deliver some pre-massage peace of mind, we talked to Shannon Merten, a licensed massage therapist who works out of her home.

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How clean should I be?

“Showering that day is preferable,” Shannon said, and not just because it’s more comfortable for the therapist. When your skin is clean, it will better absorb the lotions and oils used during your massage.

Should I shave my legs beforehand?

“This is an often brought-up topic,” Shannon said. “Not shaving for a few days or even weeks is no reason for hand-wringing. … I can’t even tell the difference.”

What kind of information should I share with my massage therapist before my massage begins?

In order to get the most out of your massage, Shannon recommends being as specific as possible with your health history. Definitely tell your therapist about any major ailments or issues you are having at that time. Information about your daily activities can also be helpful—for example, are you an avid runner? Do you travel often for work? The more your therapist knows, the better she’ll be able to customize your experience.

Should I get totally naked?

This is an area where Shannon lets the customer take the lead. “I inform my clients that they can undress to their comfort level, and that they will be draped for the entirety of the massage.”

If you’re having lower-back issues, though, consider the benefits of being in the buff: “I recommend removing underwear because a glute massage is essential for these types of ailments. And if you’ve never had your glutes and hips worked on, I highly recommend it. There are so many thick muscles in these areas, muscles that hardly ever get attention, and they all criss-cross and cause serious lower-back and hamstring issues.”

During my massage, should I be quiet, or making small talk?

Whatever makes you most comfortable! “If they’re asking questions or bring[ing] up a topic, I will answer or join in. If they’re quiet, I remain quiet. I think some people get nervous, so they may be a bit chatty.” According to Shannon, most clients make small talk for the first 20–30 minutes, then zone out for the remainder of the massage.

How do I (politely) let a massage therapist know that what they’re doing doesn’t feel good?

“I would rather my clients leave happy and satisfied than not, so if [the therapist] is doing something that is not enjoyable, a good ‘that’s a little too much pressure’ or ‘that area is too sensitive to be worked on’ should get you satisfying results,” Shannon said.

Am I supposed to tip my massage therapist? If so, how much?

According to Shannon, a 15–20% tip is appropriate. And remember: if the massage is discounted, you should tip 15–20% of the full price, not the discounted price.

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