SOMATO Stress and Pain Management

 Getting the most...


By Valerie A. Danner

If you know anyone that is about to receive their first massage, or have any apprehensions about getting one, this is the article for you.  It details the “ins” and “outs” of everything they need to know to get the most out of their massage.

Maybe someone thoughtfully decided to get you the gift of massage to help you relax. Or, maybe you just decided to treat yourself. Whatever the case, you are ready to get a massage. But, before you go, knowing what to expect at your first appointment, as well being prepared with the right questions to ask, can ensure that you get the most from your session.

Speak Up

Good communication is very important to ensuring your comfort. Don’t be afraid to discuss any apprehensions or concerns, since it’s important that you be as comfortable as possible during the session. Also, if this is your first massage, make sure you tell your therapist this.  He or she will take more time with you to explain the basics to ensure your comfort.

Massage therapists are professionals dedicated to do their best to help you feel at ease. While you will get more out of a massage with less on, removing articles of clothing may make some uncomfortable. The therapist will either leave the room or otherwise provide privacy while you undress. You should take off only as much as you are comfortable removing. A sheet or towel is provided for draping during the massage. The therapist will uncover only the part of the body being massaged, insuring that modesty is respected at all times. The draping also keeps the person receiving the massage warm. If you do not want to undress, wear clothes during the massage that will allow the massage therapist to touch and move the areas of your body that need to be worked on. Also, make sure to remove any jewelry or other articles that might interfere with the massage.

Be Honest

Though stress relief is a common reason for people to seek out massage, massage therapy can alleviate numerous ailments. If it is your first appointment, or a first appointment with a new massage therapist, a basic health history should be taken. Here, you can list any areas that are troubling you or anything in particular you’d like the therapist to pay special attention to.

Before the session, let your massage therapist know what your needs are, and report any areas that have been giving you trouble lately—neck, head, legs, etc. Also know that massage can help with more than these ailments.

Massage is important in various ways to all clients.  It can help people cope with stress, maintain a better quality of life when dealing with chronic pain or disease, help with injury recovery whether they are an athlete or a weekend warrior and help them become more aware of their body in terms of self-care. Massage can also provide the much needed caring touch for those women and men who have been widowed or are dealing with cancer and cancer treatments.

Feel free to give feedback to the massage therapist regarding things such as the hand pressure and speed of movement. Most will check in with you to determine if the pressure they are using is right, but if at any time the pressure is too much or too little, let your therapist know. Also, report any discomfort, whether it is from the massage itself or due to any problems or distractions related to the environment (e.g., room temperature, music volume, lighting, etc.).

Chatter Control

Some people like to talk during a massage session, while others remain silent. If your massage therapist encourages you to talk or not talk, it is usually based on whether or not it seems to help let go of tension and get in touch with oneself.

However, Dianne Polseno, a massage therapist who writes a column on ethics for Massage Therapy Journal, says that one of the most common reasons people change massage therapists is that they felt the therapist talked too much.

“What clients tell me, and what I find when I am on the receiving end of massage, is that talking takes away from the relaxation component of the session,” Polseno says. “Clients like to zone out, to shut out the worldly distractions, and to tune into the sensation of the massage, and to enjoy the feeling of having their muscles and tissues worked on. Talking makes them have to pay attention. Massage induces a parasympathetic state of rest, and having to talk or listen can hinder that,” she says.

Polseno adds that the therapist should ask about the topic of conversation before the massage begins; but if the therapist doesn’t, then you have the right to discuss it either before or during the massage. Say something like, “I prefer to rest and not talk when I get massaged.”

“If a therapist is chatting away, it may be awkward for a client to be assertive enough to say something, but most therapists want to serve their clients' needs, and would be appreciative for the information,” Polseno says.

Above all, remember: time on the massage table is your time. Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions, so that your massage experience can be as relaxing and beneficial as possible.

Questions To Ask

  • Are you currently licensed as a massage therapist in this state? (This pertains if you are in one of the 38 states [or the District of Columbia]that regulates massage therapy.)Are you a member of AMTA?
  • Are you a graduate of a training program accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) or current AMTA school member?
  • Where did you receive your massage therapy training? How many in-class hours of training did you complete?
  • Do you have additional training in any specific massage techniques?
  • Are you nationally certified in therapeutic massage bodywork?

~ Valerie A. Danner is an associate editor at AMTA. She can be reached at