An increasing number of people are recognising the benefits of frequent massage therapy and to the many that have treatments monthly it’s as natural as walking into a coffee shop and ordering a coffee. However for those who are new to the experience it can initially seem daunting. So here I will endeavour to answer a few questions about what to expect on your first treatment.
When you book your appointment, feel free to discuss with the therapist any specific concerns you have; this will enable them to get a better understanding of what you will need and how much time they should allow for your treatment. It’s also useful to advise the therapist of any health issues to ensure that massage treatment is suitable for you at this time. When booking, bear in mind that most therapists have full schedules; it’s very rare that a therapist is able to book you in for the same day however you may be able to get an appointment within the week following the initial telephone call. Another thing to bear in mind is that when a therapist is busy treating someone, they cannot answer the phone, so leave a message or send a text message and they will call you back at the first opportunity.
It is important that your therapist conducts a thorough consultation prior to any massage treatment. This is to enable them to get a good understanding of your health, your lifestyle and what may benefit you most within the treatment as well as what you hope the massage will achieve. In some cases, such as in pregnancy, consent may be needed from the relevant health care professional. If you have any specific health issues or are pregnant it may be wise to discuss these with the therapist at the point of booking. During the consultation you are free to discuss any issues you are concerned about and any information disclosed is confidential.
Preparing for massage
Following the consultation where you will have agreed a personal treatment plan, it’s time to prepare for the massage. This is where practices begin to vary between therapists; personally, I always prefer to leave the room to allow my clients to get undressed, to lie on the table and to cover themselves up with the towels provided in privacy. This not only protects modesty and dignity but also allows the client a little bit of time to unwind and become comfortable and relaxed with the environment. Depending on what you are wearing and what treatment you are having you will either undress down to your underwear or undress the specific area you wish to be treated. For example, if you would like a back, neck and shoulder massage and you are wearing jeans, the therapist might advise you to take your jeans off as well. This will aid in your comfort and ability to relax as well as make it easier for the therapist to treat the lower back. However if you are wearing loose jogging bottoms or leggings you may prefer to keep them on. Regardless, the choice is yours and a therapist will adapt treatment if you are uncomfortable getting undressed. If you are happy to undress you will be covered at all times with towels and the therapist will only expose the part of the body they are working on. If you find towels too heavy, it may be possible to use a lighter sheet instead.
During the massage
Again, practice techniques differ widely from one therapist to the next and also dependent on what type of massage you are having. In my practice, for a standard massage to treat daily stress and office life, I usually use relaxing music however if you prefer not have music playing, this is fine. I also usually dim the lighting to enable you to relax a little more. The massage is started by using techniques to help you and your muscles relax. If you find it difficult to unwind and switch off some breathing techniques may be helpful, on the other hand, some people prefer to natter for a short while and they find this helps them to unwind. It is entirely up to you whether you want to talk through your treatment or not, most therapists will allow you to lead conversation. Once you are relaxed, both in mind and body, a therapist is then able to work a little deeper on the muscles and a variety of massage techniques can be used to do this including stretching, kneading and rolling the muscle in the case of a deep tissue massage. Depending on the treatment, you may be required to change position; the therapist will guide you through this and support you to change position while maintaining modesty.
After the massage
When the treatment is finished, your therapist will leave you alone for a few minutes to come round and so you can get dressed in privacy. They will return and give you some after care advice including anything specific they noted during the treatment and perhaps some advice on what you can do at home that will help between treatments, this might include some stretches or exercise.
General aftercare advice
If possible, stay stress-free following your treatment; have a bath or listen to some peaceful music, or even have a nap or generally rest. If you’d rather be active, a gentle walk in nature will help you continue to remain tranquil and will be very beneficial. Doing something that helps you to stay calm and hassle-free will keep the muscles relaxed and allow the effects of the massage to last longer. You might feel cold initially after a treatment so wrap up and keep warm.
Drink plenty of water, fruit juice or herbal teas. During the massage, your lymphatic system will have been stimulated and be starting to flush. As a consequence you will have a need to urinate more frequently than normal. Drinking plenty of water following a treatment helps with this detoxification process. Avoid caffeine, stimulants and alcohol for 12 – 24 hours following a treatment.
Eat light, healthy meals and avoid eating anything heavy for at least 4 – 6 hours following a treatment. Massage stimulates the digestive system, so eating anything too heavy in the hours following could make you feel a little nauseous.
Most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel thirsty, have a glass of water, if you feel faint, have a rest, if you feel achy, don’t do anything strenuous.
Remember, while you’ve been lay on the massage couch, drifting off into deep relaxation, your body has been doing a lot of work to heal itself; you may well feel tired, have slower reactions to normal or ache for a short while. This is because your body is repairing itself; any reactions should clear up within 24 – 48 hours following a treatment. However if there is anything you are concerned about following a treatment, don’t hesitate to contact your therapist to discuss any concerns.