One of my wellness strategies is getting a monthly deep tissue massage. It’s great at combating many of the bad habits I have while working at home, such as sitting for long periods of time or getting an ache in my hands from too much computer work. There are periods of time where I’m stuck at my desk for hours on end for video calls, and it wrecks havoc on my joints. I figure the small amount of money that I invest into massage is worth having a functioning set of motor skills as I continue to age. 😉
I tend to advocate folks get a massage whenever the topic of wellness comes up. I get a lot of questions and thought I’d write my thoughts down to make it easier on future me. In this post, I’ll share my story, processes, and various tips for those curious about massage.
My wife introduced me to the health benefits of a regular massage only a few years ago. She’s a licensed massage therapist, which is the preferred title over the now defunct masseuse, and proficient in a variety of different techniques. Prior to her, I always thought massages were psychologically uncomfortable – and perhaps even sexual? There’s was always this “wink wink” vibe whenever people or the media around me (movies, TV shows) talked about getting a massage, and so I had closed my mind to it with very little in the way of facts.
Today, I am a loyal client to a licensed massage therapist that specializes in Ashiatsu, which is a fairly intense deep tissue technique for which the therapist uses their weight to apply pressure through their feet. I go every month for 2 hours and am always excited when it’s time to go back. While this all seems normal to me now, it was very odd sounding to me in the beginning.
I perceive the health benefits to be tangible and distinct. My massage therapist is able to find all sorts of sore, knotted spots, and then advise what to do to help remediate the underlying issues. This coaching has helped me improve my foam rolling routine and encouraged me to walk around more. Your mileage may vary, and I’m certainly no doctor, but consider me highly satisfied in the results.
Starting Your Journey
I didn’t start with Ashiatsu. I don’t advise you do, either.
The first step is to find a reputable business in the area that has licensed massage therapists to work with. I visited a few different establishments before I found the one I liked, so don’t feel like you have to get it right on the first try. Sign up for a 60 minute deep tissue massage and consider the first visit to be all about getting to know the massage therapist and building up a relationship – after all, it’s best to be a regular with someone who has historical context on your wellness journey.
When the day of your appointment arrives, I recommend the following:
- Get yourself nice and clean with a shower, making sure to exfoliate.
- Hydrate! Getting a massage intentionally releases a lot of stored toxins into the body, and being hydrated helps flush them out.
- Remove rings, watches, and other jewelry.
- Wear comfy clothing, such as your home office sweat pants and a t-shirt. This is a great time to look basic.
Once you arrive and check-in, it’s time to talk with your massage therapist. This is your chance to be honest and say what’s on your mind. You’re probably nervous, it’s your first time, so just say that! It’s their job to put you at ease and explain how everything works. Conversation is key, because you’re not there to buy a cheeseburger – you’re there to have someone support your wellness goals with a personalized and professional service. I felt a bit anxious and nervous upon my first visit, and that’s OK.
At some point during the conversation you’re going to make your way to the massage room. These vary a lot between businesses, but there’s always a raised bed with a head rest and some sort of sheet. It’s usually dimly lit with soothing music playing, and some places offer aromatherapy services if that’s your thing.
When the massage therapist leaves the room and shuts the door, strip down to whatever level you find comfortable. There are parts of the body that have hindered access when wearing underwear, but I still prefer to wear them.
Lay face down with your head in the head rest. Adjust the sheet so that it covers you up and keeps you feeling cozy.
When the massage therapist comes back in, the massage starts.
If this is your first time, there will be some pain. The muscles and fascia are likely sore, stiff, or otherwise in distress. As these tender spots are explored and massaged, the pain will quickly switch over to relief and warm blood flow. It’s a very rewarding feeling that means only good things!
Breathe. Take deep, slow breaths. The act of inhaling and exhaling helps signal to the brain and body that “yes, this is OK – we are being healed.” After a few massages, I stopped feeling any pain at all and instead only feel the pleasant relief and blood flow that accompany a knot or soreness being released.
If the pain is too much, just say so and the massage therapist will (and definitely should) ease up. As they learn more about your tender spots and pain threshold, there should be less need to express discomfort – they’ll just know. But, always feel comfortable telling them what hurts or doesn’t feel good. Communication is key!
At the end of your time, the massage therapist will depart the room. Get dressed and take a few deep breaths. You probably have “massage brain” which is a general feeling of fuzziness from all the hormones and toxins sparkling like a cocktail in your body.
Grab a drink of water and finish it. I like to keep a water bottle in the car for the drive home, too.
Tip! Massage therapists really don’t make very much. The company hosting the facilities and such take a very big chunk. I tip 30% of the massage cost in cash directly to the massage therapist. This equates to $40-60, depending on the length and type of massage chosen.
If you felt good vibes from the first massage, you probably will on the next ones. Make sure to get their name and request that specific massage therapist moving forward. Ideally, you can schedule directly with them based on their schedule’s availability.