How to Prepare for Your Massage Therapy Session

Lucky you… you’ve booked a massage! Here’s what you need to know to make your next massage the best ever.

Do your research.

  • Massage therapists in Michigan need to be State Certified at a minimum. Look for someone who is within a few miles of your house.
  • You want to be able to walk or drive home within a short period of time; that way you can continue to unwind and connect with your body after the massage.
  • When friends rub your shoulders, do you like deeper pressure or a softer touch? A massage therapist can always go lighter, but it takes someone with experience and confidence to be able to apply deep and focused pressure. Someone with at least a few years of massage practice will understand common strain patterns and how to correct them.
  • Are there pictures of the massage room, and does it seem like it’s a serene and relaxing environment? Is it located in a noisy spa or attached to a busy salon? Nothing ruins your massage like the sound of chatter and traffic.
  • The massage therapist should at least have a few detailed and positive reviews letting you know what you can expect from them and the energy in their office. They should also have a picture on their website; it’s important to work with someone that practices a holistic lifestyle and “walks the talk.”
  • Are you looking for a sports massage or relaxation or a balance of both? The massage therapist should briefly detail on their website what their training and specialties are.

Schedule mindfully.

  • Before you choose an appointment time, ask yourself if you have time to take that yoga class, eat a healthy meal, and navigate traffic and parking? Do you want to come from work or will you have to return to the office? Ideally, a few hours after the massage to relax, drink tea, curl up with a movie or a good book will help extend the deep reset of your parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Some find a massage invigorating, and you may feel well-rested after your session. Housework, shopping, and getting gas will hopefully have been done beforehand. Avoid any intense conversations or high-stress events two hours before your massage. A spike in adrenaline takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to resolve.
  • You will want to arrive a few minutes early to fill out your health history form (if you haven’t already), use the restroom and have a conversation of some depth to describe your needs for the session.

Prepare your body.

  • If you regularly work out with weights, try to schedule the massage on your “rest” day. Allow one full sleep cycle after your massage before your next workout to give your tissue and muscle proprioreceptors time to heal and recalibrate.
  • Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine 48 hours before your massage. Increase your water intake prior to and after your massage. This will reduce the lactic acid levels and “trigger points” which make the massage feel more painful than necessary.
  • If you have the chance to foam roll before your massage, that will help loosen up your muscles and reduce lactic acid levels, enhancing your massage benefits.
  • Reschedule your next appointment and turn off your cell phone (don’t leave it on vibrate—it’s still noise you don’t want during your massage).
  • Use the restroom before you get on the table and pay for your session.
  • Try to come with minimal makeup, perfume and little or no jewelry as it will need to be removed before you get on the massage table.
  • If you wear contacts, remove them before the massage, if you can.
  • Bring comfortable clothes with you if you’re coming straight from work. You’ll want to slip into them after your session, rather than a tight or complicated outfit.
  • Let your massage therapist know if you’d like moist heat packs (I use custom-formed rice bags) or dry-skin brushing to stimulate lymph and remove dead skin cells.
  • You can bring your own oil or lotion, and also your own dry skin brush, but try to let them know in advance. Some lotions are not ideal for the proper “glide” the therapist needs. I buy dry skin brushes in bulk and have them for purchase at my office for $6, and my oil is 100% organic sunflower, naturally full of Vitamin E.

Communicate your needs.

  • Make sure you have updated your therapist on any recent health issues, medications, injuries or increased stress levels.
  • As you undress and wait for your therapist to enter the room, listen to the music being played. If it’s not quite your favorite, ask them to switch it up. I have ocean, classical, flute, meditative and nature CD’s, just to name a few. I’m always happy to adjust music; it’s an important part of helping your body and mind unwind.
  • Notice the temperature and let your massage therapist know if it’s too cool or too warm.
  • The face cradle is highly adjustable, and the right position is critical to a comfortable neck position.
  • If you like a cervical pillow or folded towel under your neck when you are lying on your back, let them know in advance so they can get it out and have it ready for when it’s needed.
  • Make sure the bolster position under ankles (when face down) and under knees (when supine) is high enough and comfortable for you.
  • If you can feel your massage therapists’ nails, they aren’t short enough. It’s worth it for them to excuse themselves for a moment and file them down rather than feel poked during your session.
  • Remember: this is your time to connect with your body, and I always advise a quiet, meditative session. Your therapist should not be chatting, especially about themselves! I promise you that your massage will be more complete if they are also allowed to focus in a quiet space and “hear” what your body is saying.

Deep Breathe.

  • Breathing deeply allows your body to recalibrate, from an overactive sympathetic nervous system response, to a parasympathetic balance. The regular, deep breathing “cues” your body to produce less adrenaline, and instead lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Try not to “help” your massage therapist by lifting your neck or limbs. It’s better if you can be like a rag doll, limp and relaxed, and let them position you in the best way.
  • If you find yourself drifting off, don’t fight it. Your body may take the opportunity to catch up on a few moments of much-needed sleep.

Integrate the experience.

  • After your massage therapist leaves the room, take a moment and stretch on the massage table. There’s no need to leap up quickly!
  • Sit on the edge of the table and after a moment gently begin to move.
  • Get dressed slowly and purposefully.
  • You’ve already paid and rescheduled so float out the door and to your next destination to savor your time spent in a healing space.
  • Try to enjoy a few extra glasses of water and a feast to celebrate your health in gratitude.

These tips are things I’ve learned over many years of both giving and receiving great bodywork. Looking forward to seeing you at Excelsior Massage soon!

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