by Nick Lakoff, Certified Massage Therapist
Are you a massage neophyte, occasional dabbler or seasoned massage aficionado? Whatever type you are, chances are that are things your massage therapist might not have covered with you, in terms of how to prepare for, what to do during, and what to do post-session.
PRIOR TO A SESSION
Before you leave for your massage appointment, there are things you can do to make your session more enjoyable for all concerned:
- Shower and exfoliate. Other than the value of feeling clean and fresh, showering before a session and exfoliating will remove any excess skin. If there is loose skin on the body when using gels, oils or creams they create little skin balls that are annoying and require the therapist to pause and remove therefore reducing the fluidity of the massage and wasting time
- Don’t eat a large meal – Before going to a session make sure you have a light meal or a snack. Having a large meal may cause you gastric discomfort during the session even requiring you to use bathroom, interrupting the flow and shortening the session.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs. Since massage slows the functions of your endocrine systems, it’s advised that you don’t drink or take recreational drugs prior to a massage. Consuming drug and/or alcohol can lead to nausea and other discomforts and accelerate dehydration. You should also avoid using anti-inflammatory medication and advise the therapist if you have consumed them prior. Using these medications can reduce the effectiveness of the massage. The only notable exception is the use of doctor prescribed medicine for a condition or ailment. Be sure to mention theses when doing the health history at the beginning of the session.
DURING THE SESSION
- Remember to breathe. Make sure that you remember to breathe normally and regularly. You don’t have to over-emphasize it unless the therapist asks you to take a deep breath. At the beginning of all my massages, I do respiratory compressions and ask my clients to take a deep breath before each one.
- Communicate. Make sure you communicate with your therapist during the massage if you’re uncomfortable, in pain, or about anything that’s preventing you from enjoying your massage. It’s not uncommon for clients to suffer through a massage because they’re too shy to talk to the therapist and tell them their issue. Remember two things. First, it’s your money and your massage, so don’t hesitate to tell them if there is something that’s not quite right. A good massage therapist adapts to each client to give the best experience possible. Second, although we’re more attuned than most people, by the nature of our work, we’re not clairvoyant. We want to know if we’re doing something you’re not enjoying.
- Be introspective. Try to consciously ground yourself, listen to your body and focus on the benefits of the massage you’re receiving. Sometimes people just fall asleep during a session and that’s fine too. I’ve heard of therapist telling their clients that if they fall asleep they will get less out of their session. I don’t adhere to that philosophy. If you fall asleep, it’s because you’re relaxed and your body needed it.
AFTER THE SESSION
- Hydrate. Drink 2-4 glasses of water in the half-hour post-session. Drinking water reduces the risk of getting a headache caused by an over-concentration of toxins in the blood, as well as stiffness and dehydration linked to the physical post-massage effects on the body. It’s a good idea to double your water consumption in the next 48 hours since drinking water speeds up the movement of toxins and cellular debris towards the renal system and the movement of oxygen and nutrients towards cells.
- Post-massage effects. Immediately following a massage therapy session, when arising from the table, it’s possible to feel dizzy. Some people experience a drop in blood pressure; this is normal, temporary, and caused by the interval since your last meal. Post-session fatigue can occur, lasting 15-30 minutes; it’s usually followed by a surge of energy. Approximately 48 hours post-session, it’s possible to feel stiffness; massage is a form of exercise for the muscles; a person in good physical condition will recover faster. You may develop symptoms, if you’re incubating a virus at the time of the massage; however, the duration of the virus should be reduced due to the massage.
- Residual massage lubricants. Most massage oils used in professional massages are from a vegetable base; therefore, allowing the skin to breathe. It’s not dangerous for them to remain on the skin since they contain elements nutritious to your epidermis. Should you develop a skin irritation post-session, you may be sensitive to certain ingredients contained in a particular massage oil. Tell your massage therapist during your next visit, so another oil can be used.
- Frequency of visits. The frequency of your visits for massage therapy depends on several factors. Allow at least 48 hours between visits, letting your body assimilate completely to the work performed. If consulting for therapeutic purposes, try to schedule several sessions within a shorter time (approx. 1 week interval). If visiting for preventative purposes, and the aim of the massage is relaxation and stress management, the interval between visits can be greater. In any case, massage therapy has short, medium, and long term effects. Your lifestyle and its effects on you, will determine the ideal interval for visits. Note, however, for most people, massage loses its cumulative effects after a month without a follow-up appointment.
Nick Lakoff is a certified practitioner in the following disciplines: Swedish Massage, Sports Massage, Reflexology, Acupressure, Myo-Fascial Release, Massage for Pregnancy, Swedish Chair Massage, Hot Stone Massage and Reiki.