Massage: What to Expect

Many times when clients come to a massage therapist, all they know is that massage is supposed to make them feel better and that someone has spoken of it to them rather it be a coworker, a friend or family member or even a doctor or chiropractor. They don't know what the various types of massage are, what they do or how they can help them. Many therapists, being surrounded by terminology and modalities all day long, often do not realize that a client doesn't know exactly what it is they are looking for until they are a little more knowledgeable.
Massage therapists often refer to the different types of massage available as their "modality", defined as 'the application of a therapeutic agent, usually a physical therapeutic agent'. It also refers to the sense of touch, which is especially poignant for massage therapists who "see" through their hands. The modality each therapist employs will be dependant on their education level. Most massage therapy schools teach Swedish massage with small supplemental courses in other types of massage such as trigger point, lymph drainage, deep tissue, pregnancy, and hot stone. Many therapists right out of school are only comfortable in Swedish massage, but some will supplement their education while in school to attend workshops and classes to learn more about their craft.
The first thing you should expect from your therapist is professionalism. They should conduct themselves in a manner befitting a member of the medical community. A client's body should be properly covered and draped at all times. Women's breasts and male and female genitals should be covered at all times by sheets and/or blankets. Many therapists will use a chest towel to cover women's breasts when doing abdominal massage if requested by the client. Each therapist should ask either on their intake form or verbally if you are comfortable with abdominal, gluteal or face massage and should respect these wishes. Each therapist should consult with their client before a massage to find out what their trouble areas are and explain briefly the type of massage to be performed.
Communicating discomfort to the therapist during the massage should result in an immediate correction of the problem. Some forms of massage therapy are not always pleasant, but it should not be painful or cause clients to feel exposed or vunerable. Many therapists will be more than willing to correct their pressure, technique or draping to make a client feel more at ease. If at any time a client feels uncomfortable before, during or after the massage, that client has the right to end the session or discontinue their sessions entirely.
Therapists will ask their clients about pain or tight areas, where the client would like work done and ask if the client would like their entire body massaged or just upper or lower body. Depending on the pain levels and the necessity of work, a client may decide they would like only their upper body worked on from the waist up, the lower body for feet, legs and gluteal region, or a full body massage that works in elements of the entire body. They will also ask about pressure. Some clients prefer light pressure, some prefer medium and still others prefer deep pressure. If a client is unsure, they may ask for medium pressure and instruct the therapist to use more or less pressure for each area worked upon.
All of this and we still haven't covered the types of massage available. It's easy to see how clients could be confused, let alone covering any body issues they may have. This series seeks to explain each of the different modalities of massage and explain each one to give prospective clients a good idea what it is they're looking for and what to expect from their first massage session.
With all of this going through your mind, are you really prepared to answer the question, "What kind of massage are you looking for today?" You mean there's more than one kind? When you first walk into a massage therapy clinic, it may be slightly disorienting. Not only are you becoming acquainted with a new setting, the tranquil music and subdued colours might seem rather odd compared to the bright colors and flashing lights that surround us from day to day. Each clinic is different from the way the therapists dress to rather or not there is a receptionist to greet you and even your surroundings. Given there are many misconceptions, you may be confused or overwhelmed about what you may find or what to expect from your therapist, especially if you have never been to a massage therapy clinic before.

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