Getting a Massage? Speak up! 

Yipes! I’m a week behind my goal of posting once every other Wednesday-ish. In the beginning of May, I took a short but significant trip to La Jolla, CA for a wedding. One day, I hope to write more about that solo trip…still processing! And this month is flying by at breakneck speed. But tonight I want to write a quick post. And I’m breaking my usual standard of editing the post to death before and after posting it…I think/hope. Let’s take a leap off the cuff for a moment, shall we?

About a year before the notion of becoming a massage therapist even crossed my mind, I took a mini-trip with a friend and got a massage.

It was, hands-down, the worst massage I’ve ever received.

I was still fairly new to the whole massage experience and booked a couple’s session with my friend. My therapist asked me what was experiencing tension, and I said my shoulders (especially my right one) were bothering me.

We got on the tables, and our therapists got started. Soon, I dearly wished I were alone in the room with my therapist; having my friend present made me too embarrassed to state that what my therapist was doing was causing me searing pain. His idea of addressing my shoulders was to deliver the most pressure possible to the area and to crank on my shoulder blades so they “winged,” then to dig around under them. Sometimes “winging” the shoulder blade is what is called for, but he didn’t do much else during the session. Never once did he ask how his pressure felt, and never once did he adjust his technique as I flinched and cringed. It was 90 minutes of hell.

I came out of there red and bruised. That night, I felt flu-like symptoms…nausea, chills, a low-grade fever. He hadn’t advised me to drink plenty of water, so being the newbie that I was, I didn’t. And I felt awful. I didn’t know what to do to alleviate the pain, so I took a hot shower. That only made me more miserable. (Ice is soothing after invasive, deeper work, I now know.)

Writing this, I feel anger toward him for obvious reasons, but also anger toward myself. Why didn’t I feel comfortable enough to speak up? My friend probably wouldn’t have judged me, and my therapist probably would have lightened up. I’m sure he’d heard from other clients that he was heavy-handed.

Consider my lesson as your cautionary tale. If you’re getting a massage and something doesn’t feel right, please, please speak up! Here’s a little laundry list for you to assess throughout the session:

  • Is the temperature in the room and on the table ok?
  • Do your face and neck feel comfortable in the face cradle?
  • Is your massage therapist communicating with you?
  • Is the pressure ok?
  • Is the technique comfortable for you, or is he or she stretching you past your comfort level (literally and figuratively)?
  • Do you feel yourself flinching, guarding or holding your breath?
  • Do you feel fear?
  • Do you know what to expect and do after the session?
  • Do you know how to stretch or strengthen the areas that are bothering you?

If something feels wrong or unclear, your massage therapist will want to know so he or she can make it right. Don’t be shy or awkward like me, and don’t be overwhelmed by the “authority” of the person working on you. You have the power to help make your massage a pleasant and positive experience.