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The Ideal Blog

6 Questions you might not have asked about massage

Our Front Desk Managers compiled a list of the questions people are often hesitant to ask. Here is what they came up with.

Written by: Vik Wiggins

Got questions? We have answers!
Got questions? We have answers!

I'm gonna do the thing we shouldn't do and make a generalized statement. More people in the United States think of massage as a luxury and not a necessity. I've based that statement off of what I have heard from clients, especially new clients. Despite it being a luxury, most clients, even those getting a massage for the first time, believe that there are some questions that are just too silly to ask. I'm gonna guess that's because they assume the answers must be common knowledge.

Massages aren't available to everyone, but everyone must know all about them. It's the paradox that cracks me up. Those "silly" questions on the other hand... well, they are valid questions with answers that are often thought of as straight-forward, but really... they aren't.

So, here are the 6 questions that clients are often hesitant to ask us at the front desk. And if you've ever asked them yourself, know that you are not alone.

To shave or not to shave before a massage?

#1: Do I need to shave?

This is one of those questions you may have pondered, but not asked. Before I started having regular massages, I had thought about it too. Like, is it just common courtesy to shave?

The answer is both yes and no, but it's really up to you. Your therapists aren't chatting in the back about whether or not you've shaved. Generally speaking, they don't really care. What I have learned from my time chatting with therapists about this question is that not every client likes the sensation of massage when there is a lot of hair.

If you were thrown off by that answer, I was too. It didn't occur to me that the clients might be the ones to poo-poo hairy legs in a massage. But it turns out that between the feeling of oils/lotions caught in hair and/or the tugging sensation that can sometimes come from hair being pulled, the experience of a hairy massage may not be as relaxing for some individuals.

So, what it boils down to is client preference. If you know the slight pull and tug on hair as your therapist works your legs or back isn't going to bother you, then you are all set homey. And if you are like me and that feeling is going to keep you anxiety ridden and unable to relax while you are on the table, then by all means, shave it up.

The bottom line: If it doesn't bother you, then it doesn't bother us. Come as you are.

What do I wear?

#2: Do I need to undress completely?

This is one of those questions I think most clients assume has one simple answer and they already know what that answer is. It's a question I think more clients should ask.

This may be a surprise to some, but you are not required to get undressed. In fact, some massages require you to keep your clothes on like with chair or Thai floor/table massage. In these modalities, the therapist may be using more of their body to apply pressure or to manipulate tissue without the use of oils/lotions. Keeping your clothes on is necessary for the therapist to perform the service comfortably.

In contrast, traditional table massages do use oils and lotions. This makes it more difficult to perform specific techniques or movements if the body is fully covered. In those cases, it is not expected that you fully undress, however removing some clothing allows the therapist better access and freedom of movement to troublesome areas. It is also normal for the therapist to massage over a blanket or sheet for part of the massage.

The bottom line: What is most important about your massage is that you are comfortable and able to relax. If taking off all your clothes will put you on edge, than undress to your comfort level. And don't forget to dress comfortably.

#3: Do I need to tip and how much?

We love tips!

This is probably the most frequently asked question I get. To be honest though, it often comes in the form of a hushed whisper or with a hesitancy like we should all just know the right answer to this question. Having been someone on the other side of the desk, I understand why there could be that hesitancy. After all, the United States in comparison to other places around the world is pretty tip-happy. And common knowledge about massage... is anything but common.

In terms of policy, tipping is not expected at our establishment. We wont hunt you down or black list you because you don't leave a tip. That being said, it is something the therapists kind of expect regardless of policy. Like other service jobs, it's one of the ways they measure your satisfaction with their performance. They assume if you left a big tip than they must have done a great job. In addition, as contracted workers, they don't get paid an hourly rate. Tips often help to make up for long periods of their day or week when they are available, but they are not booked nor making money.

The bottom line: In general, therapists regard a tip of 20% ($24/hour based on the current service rates) as the gold standard for a job well done.

Deep tissue techniques versus Deep or Heavy pressure

#4 What is the difference between Deep/Heavy-Firm Pressure and Deep Tissue?

Honestly, this is a question we get at the front desk because we have had to ask for clarity about what a client means by "deep". It's not generally a question clients ask without being prompted. Most of the time this comes up when a client specifies they want a "deep tissue" or "deep" massage. Unfortunately, due to common misconceptions, clients often believe they are the same thing or that you can't have one without the other.

This is one of the most important questions to ask if you want a great massage experience. Many times clients who receive deep tissue may feel unsatisfied because they were booked with a therapist who offered deep tissue, but does not offer deep or heavy pressure at what the client deems a satisfactory level. While all massage therapists are generally trained in some form of deep tissue work, not all therapists offer deep or heavy pressure. Knowing the difference between the two and what matters most to you can help you find the right therapist without all the unsatisfying massages in between.

Deep tissue can also be thought of as "therapeutic techniques". Deep tissue doesn't refer to the pressure or amount of force a therapist needs to use, but rather the techniques used to reach the deeper layers of muscle tissue. These techniques are best for clients who are experiencing pain/tension and are in need of therapeutic relief. In this way, deep tissue is more objective. There are hundreds of modalities and techniques, many of which are used to achieve a deep tissue massage, but they all have a set framework or structure to determine how the therapist can use their body to achieve that technique. If we wanted to, we could probably argue that there is a black-and-white measurement for success or failure when applying deep tissue.

In contrast, Deep pressure (which is really better described as Heavy-firm pressure) is subjective- meaning there is no "right" or "wrong" standard. There is only how each person feels during and after the massage. In practice, the same therapist can see two different clients and apply the same amount of "heavy" pressure. The first client might be perfectly happy with the pressure and think of it as "heavy-firm" where as the second client might feel unhappy after the massage and call it "medium". This kind of thing happens every day and can be frustrating for clients as well as therapists.

The bottom line: Knowing what your massage needs are when it comes to deep pressure and deep tissue is extremely important to your experience. Whether you know what you want or are trying to figure it out, calling to book your appointment may helpful to improve your massage experience.

Why am I thirsty?

#5 Is it normal to feel dehydrated after a massage?

Yes, it is normal to feel dehydrated after a massage. But a straight forward answer isn't usually what clients want to know. The answer they are really looking for answers the question: "Why do I feel dehydrated after a massage?"

The generalized cookie-cutter response to why our body feels dehydrated and why you should drink water after a massage is: "to flush all the toxins from your body". In all honesty, there isn't much medical research to specify whether the toxins adage is myth or fact and what or where those toxins come from. What we do know is that massage stimulates multiple organs and systems of the body including the largest organ, your skin, as well as the lymphatic system (which does act as a kind of waste system for your bodies naturally produced toxins). Massage also invokes your cardiovascular system, helping to encourage blood flow to parts of the body that might otherwise be chronically under-stimulated. Engaging all of these tissues (and more) is hard work for your body and when your body is working, it uses up a vital resource in cellular production: water.

The bottom line: Rehydrating before and after a workout routine is pretty common knowledge, but it's just as important to hydrate before and after a massage.

Make a plan and follow through

#6 Is there anything I should do before my massage?

This is a rare question, but one that I and the therapists generally appreciate the most. The reason for this is often because there are situations where we have to decline service to a client because of something that could have been easily prevented or delayed. So, it might sound silly to ask, but it's certainly not a silly question.

Yes, absolutely there are things you should do and cannot do before receiving a massage. The easiest of these are to hydrate before your massage, dress comfortably, and use the restroom before going in for service. While we do offer a robe to help clients get to the bathroom more easily mid-session, stopping a massage mid session can feel less relaxing for the client and more jarring for the therapist and their routine.

In addition, there are some medications that should be avoided before getting a massage. Anti-inflammatories, pain killers, alcohol, and recreational drugs can change the way you perceive and react to pain, this includes involuntary responses such as twitching, tightening, etc. These responses can be helpful to your therapist in determining how to safely provide service. Your therapist isn't just rubbing your skin and applying pressure arbitrarily. They are gauging your body's reaction to the movement to feel where pain, tenderness, tension, etc. might be occurring for you. This is not just to ensure you have a relaxing experience, but to ensure that they do not cause additional injury.

In addition, massage stimulates your body's cardiovascular system which controls blood flow. This can increase the speed with which certain drugs take effect and could (in the case of alcohol or other drugs) cause an increased feeling of intoxication and can put you at greater risk of illness.

Finally, the last things you can do before coming in to get a massage is to gauge your own body's health and report your medical history. If you are sick with fever, vomiting, have an open wound or sore, etc. you should postpone your massage. Even something like the common cold can be exacerbated by massage. Also, by disclosing your medical history, you are ensuring a safer massage experience for yourself. Massage is a medical treatment that manipulates the body. Any illnesses or conditions you have can impact your massage experience and could put you at risk of injury. Keeping your therapist informed allows them to help you more effectively without unnecessary risk.

The bottom line: Yes, there are multiple ways to prepare your body and your therapist for your massage.

Have you ever asked these questions? Is there another question we should have added to the list? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, keep calm and get your relaxation on!


Disclaimer: The statements written above were not reviewed by the FDA or any regulatory authority. Massage Therapy may not be an appropriate treatment for all clients. Consult a medical professional to see if massage therapy is right for you. This article was written by an employee of Ideal Massage for Ideal Massage.

50 views2 comments


Very helpful information! thank you

Ideal Massage
Ideal Massage
Jul 08, 2023
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