Massage Therapy First-Timers: What to Expect

Welcome, 2016!

It is a new year for new experiences! Why don’t we start fresh by going back to some basics?

If you are an existing client of mine, or have already had massage in the past, this post will not apply to you in any way. Of course you may feel free to read on, but just know that we will be gearing down to address all of the massage therapy novices out there.

“What’s this? Are you trying to tell me that there are people who have never had a massage before?” You might be thinking this right now, if you love massage therapy as much as I do. Unfortunately, the answer is yes; there are people who have never had a massage before.

Prior to graduating high school, the thought of getting a massage never crossed my mind. Not even once. In fact, it was not until I decided to look into massage therapy as a career that it did finally occur to me, and even then it was only because I was told that it was a requirement. In retrospect, it seems a little silly to think that I intended to learn the art of massage before ever experiencing it myself. What can I say? I was young and stupid.

There are many reasons why lots of people have not tried massage therapy yet. In some cases it may be lack of knowledge about the industry; several clients have told me that they never before imagined massage could be used as a tool for therapy and healing. In other cases, some individuals are not comfortable with the idea of a stranger touching them, so they simply refuse.

Whatever the reason, if you are here now it is possible that you are considering giving massage therapy a try, and that’s wonderful! If you are feeling nervous or still on the fence, let me help point you in the right direction by walking you through what will happen at your first massage appointment:

When You Walk In:

Upon arriving at the clinic, you will be greeted by the receptionist or your massage therapist and given a patient history form to fill out before beginning your appointment. This form is used to record your medical history, past or present injuries and other conditions that your therapist should be aware of. You only need to fill out this form once, which will be used as a reference for all future appointments alongside any separate notes that your therapist will keep.

In order to avoid cutting into your appointment, it is recommended that you arrive 5-10 minutes early to fill out the patient history form.

Consultation:

Once your history has been recorded, your therapist will take you to the treatment room, where the two of you will privately review your patient history form in more detail. During this time, you will also discuss the reason for your appointment and any specific areas in which you are experiencing pain or discomfort. Your therapist will perform pathological or range-of-motion tests if necessary and then discuss the treatment plan for that day, as well as ensure your consent to any sensitive areas that may need treatment.

If there is anything regarding your massage treatment that makes you feel uncomfortable, it is important that you inform your therapist before starting the massage. In most cases, (s)he will explain any reasons for recommending treatment of such areas if (s)he feels that it is significant to your condition, however you always have the right to decline and should never feel pressured to proceed if you are still feeling unsure.

Massage:

Once establishing a treatment plan, your therapist will leave the room to wash his/her hands while you disrobe to your level of comfort and lie down on the table under the top sheet. You will have a few moments to do this, and your therapist will knock before re-entering the room.

Throughout the treatment you will always be covered with the sheet to ensure that your modesty is respected (and to keep you warm!). Your therapist will only uncover the area that (s)he is working on at the time, and will ask before undraping any sensitive areas such as your gluteals.

If at any time during the treatment you feel that the pressure is too much to handle, or wish that your therapist could apply more, do not hesitate to say something. Every client is different; while some level of discomfort can be normal during therapy, unbearable pain is not, and will provide little to no benefit. Your therapist will not know unless you communicate.

In many cases, clients are unsure whether or not to converse during their treatments for fear of “distracting” their therapists, however this is rarely a concern. If you wish to talk to your therapist or ask questions throughout the treatment, go for it. If you would rather zone out and refrain from conversing, that is fine too. Your therapist will follow your lead; though (s)he may occasionally check in to ensure your comfort, maintain consent, inquire about the pressure or ask for more detail regarding your condition, it is unlikely that (s)he will to bother you otherwise if (s)he senses that you wish to simply relax.

Ending Treatment:

Once your massage is complete, your therapist will usually ask how you are feeling and inform you to take your time sitting up before leaving the room to allow you to dress. It is normal to feel slightly light-headed or nauseous after a massage therapy treatment. Nausea can be attributed to the release of toxins from soft tissues during the treatment, and it is recommended that you drink plenty of water and (despite feeling like you want to take a nap) go for a walk to maintain circulation so that your body can better remove those toxins from your system.

Once you are dressed, you therapist may return to the room for retesting to determine the treatments immediate effects. (S)he might also recommend various practices to include in everyday life such as stretches, exercises, ice and/or heat in order to maintain and prolong the massage treatment’s effects, as well as go over a general plan for future appointments based on your condition and the findings of the day.

Squaring Up:

I can’t speak to the practices of all therapists, but generally at Munroe Massage Therapy, payment is accepted after the massage treatment is complete. Every clinic is different, so don’t be surprised if some ask for payment beforehand.

Future Appointments:

I am often asked how soon another massage treatment can or should be booked, and the answer to this question varies with each individual and their conditions.

Generally when first receiving treatment, it is best to book another appointment as soon as possible within reason (usually wait more than 48 hours). I find that four to seven days is a good amount of time to start with, as it allows the client to recover from the treatment, but is not so long that the condition begins to return to its original state before a follow-up treatment can further the benefit.

Once the condition begins to improve, appointments can slowly be spaced apart. The goal is that the condition is well-managed and, paired with home care, massage appointments are eventually scheduled further apart and focus on maintenance.


I hope that this information has eased any uncertainties about massage therapy, and that you feel more informed and confident about giving it a try. If I have missed anything on which you would like more clarification, please leave a question in the comments or e-mail me at randinowicki@hotmail.ca. If you would like to book your first appointment, visit us at 108-1111 Munroe Avenue or give us a call at 204-415-1587.

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