A friend of mine, Jessica, recently told me about her first massage therapy experience a little over a year ago. She had been enduring some chronic pain and tension in her shoulders and upper back from an old tennis injury that was left mostly untreated. When she started a desk job a few years ago, the tension became exacerbated from the sedentary life and (likely) poor posture.
At a coworker’s urging, Jessica decided to see a massage therapist in her area. She had always been hesitant of this type of treatment since she never particularly cared for physical touch. But several friends gave her personal recommendations, and she researched the topic enough to be comfortable trying it.
She said that she had been somewhat nervous prior to her first session – something prevalent with those trying massage therapy for the first time. Her session ended up being a “wonderful, healing experience” (her words), but she knew she would have gotten even more out of it had she known what to expect.
So many individuals seeking out massage therapy for the first time are unsure exactly what to expect or how to prepare. We want to help solve that for you so you can get the most out of your first massage and every experience after.
Finding the Right Therapist
When you begin a search for a therapist for your first massage, make sure you do your research. Always look for a qualified, licensed, experienced professional.
You also want to think about your goals for the session. Are you trying to resolve pain in a trouble spot? Are you an athlete trying to maximize your performance efforts? Or are you trying to relax and relieve some stress? Some therapists specialize in specific techniques while others (like MG Sports) cover a variety of massage techniques. You want to pick the therapist who is going to best match your problem with their solutions.
And don’t forget to take your personal preferences into account. If you’re a woman, perhaps you’re more comfortable with a female therapist for your first massage. Or if you’re considering scheduling sessions regularly, you may want to take location into account. How long do you want your session to last? Depending on the therapy practice, your options are usually 30, 45, 60, 75, or 90 minutes, and that time could be specifically hands-on time or overall time. And of course, don’t forget about your budget.
Preparing for Your First Massage
It’s easy to think about scheduling a massage when you’re out and about. If you’re already running errands in the area, why bother with a second trip, right? Maybe not so much. Trying to fit a massage in between things means that you when you arrive, you’ll still be tense from your prior activities and thinking about what you have to do next. Ideally, if your priority is to relax and destress, you want to arrive at your appointment in a relaxed state and have free time afterward to make the most of your session.
You also don’t want your body to be in the midst of processing food during your therapy time. So make sure you don’t eat right before your first massage (generally 2-3 hours prior). If you absolutely have to eat prior to a session, keep it light. However, you do want to make sure you drink plenty of fluids. You may also want to take a warm shower beforehand to help put you in a relaxed state.
Wear loose, relaxed clothing as well. After your session, you may feel a little sore or tender (especially if you’ve opted for a deep tissue massage), and loose clothing will be more comfortable.
Make sure you also know your goal and keep it in mind. If you have tension or pain in specific areas, be aware of it so you can communicate that to your therapist if you’d like her or him to work on solving that issue.
What to Expect During Your Session
At the beginning of your session, your therapist will ask you some general questions to best help navigate your time. This will often include any pain you’re currently experiencing or problematic areas and what you would like to focus on during the appointment. If you have any questions, this is the perfect time to ask them. They should also be able to assess you at this time to make sure the pain you’re experiencing doesn’t need to be treated by a doctor first.
Your therapist will have the room set up and ready when you arrive, but you can ask for any changes to make you comfortable. If you prefer a different type of music to help you relax (or no music at all), the therapist will be happy to make that change. Maybe light conversation puts you in a calm state. Make sure to tell them if you are too hot or too cold, or even if you are not comfortable being touched on certain parts of your body.
During your massage, you don’t want to think about anything stressful. That will make your muscles tenser, defeating the purpose of your visit. It’s best to let your mind drift which will, in turn, help your body relax. Communicate with your therapist if you feel any discomfort. That way they can change up their technique to make you more comfortable while still aiming for the goal of the session.
If the intention for your first massage is to relax, make sure you don’t have any activities planned following your appointment. To get the maximum benefits, you want to try to stay relaxed for as long as possible. You should also continue hydrating.
These steps should help put you on the right path to having the very best experience with your first massage. But should you have any questions, we’ll be happy to answer them. And if you’re ready to book a session with a therapist for the first time, we can help with that, too!