Common Embarrassing Massage Questions

What to wear and other massage etiquette tips

Man receives back massage in spa
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What should you wear to a massage? If you've never had one before, it might not be clear what the proper etiquette is for how to behave, what to ask, and even whether or not you should be clothed.

As the paying client, you always should feel free to asks your massage therapist any of these questions. But just in case, here are some guidelines in case you're too embarrassed to ask. Note that this list applies mainly to North American countries; customs may vary in other parts of the world.

What to Wear During a Massage

Many people prefer to keep their underwear on during a massage, while others prefer to be completely nude. It's up to you and will depend on what kind of massage you're getting. For shiatsu or Thai massage, for instance, there's no need to remove your clothing at all. 

If your problem areas are your lower back, hips, buttocks, or groin, tight-fitting underwear can sometimes get in the way of massage work. If you do remove your underwear, licensed massage therapists must ensure that you are always properly covered by a sheet or towel. Only the area being massaged will be uncovered.

The massage therapist will leave the room so that you can remove your clothing and lie on the massage table (usually face down) under the top sheet.

Don't rush or worry that the massage therapist will walk in on you; they'll always knock and ask if you are ready before entering the massage room.

Tipping for a Massage

If you get a massage at a spa or hotel, a 15 to 20 percent tip is standard if you were pleased with the services. On the other hand, there are no real ground rules or norms when it comes to massage in a medical setting. Tipping may not be appropriate in a medical or clinical setting.

If you're not sure, don't be afraid to ask if tipping is customary. You can call ahead to ask if you don't want to do it face to face.

If tips aren't part of the deal, you can always show your appreciation by referring friends, family, and co-workers to the massage therapist.

Talking During a Massage

Although some people prefer to talk throughout the massage, don't feel like you have to make conversation with the massage therapist. After all, you're having a treatment; you're not at a cocktail party.

Feel free to close your eyes and relax which is what most people do.

Deep tissue massage and sports massage are just some of the types of massage that require more feedback. The massage therapist often works on deeper layers of muscle and will want to ensure that the pressure is not uncomfortable.

Be sure to speak up if:

  • The room is too hot or too cold
  • You experience pain
  • You have any questions related to the massage
  • There's anything you forgot to mention during the consultation

Determining Whether a Massage Clinic is Legitimate

If you're trying a new clinic or spa, it's a good idea to call first and ask these questions:

  • Do you require a health questionnaire of your clients?

A licensed massage therapist will not come into contact with your genitals or nipples during the massage.

Getting the Most From Your Massage

Communicate openly with the massage therapist. Keep in mind however that it's a myth that massage therapy has to hurt to be effective.

Some of the most effective types of massage therapy are gentle and do not involve deep pressure or pain. In fact, too much pressure can cause muscles to seize up.

Here is a good rule of thumb -- on a scale of one to 10 where one is no pain and 10 is extremely painful, the pressure should always be less than seven.

Feeling Self-Conscious During a Massage

Being self-conscious shouldn't keep you from seeking health care, whether it's visiting your doctor or seeing a massage therapist. But we all have some body parts we're not totally happy with.

If you're self-conscious about a certain part of your body, you can ask the massage therapist to avoid that area. Or, you can opt for a therapy that is done through clothing, such as shiatsu or Thai massage. Because no massage oil or lotion is used, you remain fully clothed during the session.

Just remember to provide complete and accurate information on your health history form, so that the massage therapist is aware of any precautions or contraindications.

Seeking a Female Massage Therapist

While both male and female massage therapists are trained and qualified at the same level, sometimes a woman feels more comfortable receiving a massage from another woman. As the paying client, you should absolutely be able to make this call. 

Using Massage Therapy

If you're considering the use of massage therapy, talk with your doctor first. Keep in mind that massage therapy, or any other alternative medicine, should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a health condition.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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