There are a number of reasons that people don't go to get a massage when they need one. In a previous post, we discussed what to expect at your first massage, and while I hope that it helped many people to feel more comfortable about going in, I am aware that there are still many things that people may worry or feel embarrassed or self-conscious about. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't one of those people once upon a time. This week, I present you with a list of common hang ups that your massage therapist truthfully won't care about or maybe even notice.
Everybody passes gas. It is one of the ways that our body has of releasing things we don't need. Gas is generally created as we digest our food. Certain foods create more gas than others. If we don't release the gas, it is very unhealthy. When you are receiving a massage, the therapist is affecting every system of your body including your digestion. As things get stimulated and move, gas is often released. This is the same reason that many people experience a great need to use the bathroom after a massage. My point here is, that passing gas is a normal occurrence that you should never feel ashamed of. Regardless of which end the gas comes out of, your massage therapist won't be offended. In fact, trying to hold it back can undo many of the positive effects of the massage. As you clench and worry, you are not as able to relax physically or emotionally. Just let it go.
People don't like talking about gas, and they really don't like talking about poop. I don't understand why, since as we all learned as children, everybody poops. If you are having trouble with constipation, your massage therapist can help you. Believe it or not, we actually know massage techniques that can help to get things moving. I know it can be hard to talk about, but never feel embarrassed to tell your massage therapist about anything that is making you feel uncomfortable. Chances are, we know something that can help you.
3. You are on your period
Being on your period is another perfectly normal occurrence. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are having negative symptoms resulting from being on your period, tell your therapist. She may be able to help. I actually have an aromatherapy oil blend that is great for relieving menstrual pain, and your massage therapist can use certain techniques that will help to relieve some of your aches and pains.
I run into this primarily with my pregnant or nursing mamas, but it can apply to anyone. Sometimes we leak fluids. It is a fact of life. It is not uncommon to have a pregnant or nursing mama leak breast milk during a massage. When I am massaging a woman in labor, all manner of fluids may get on the table. It is ok. If I know ahead of time that this may be an issue, I put a protective fluid-proof liner on the table, and offer towels. I use the liner for all of my prenatal, labor, and postpartum massages. If you aren't a new mama, there is still nothing to be ashamed of.
5. You didn't shave your legs
This is actually a fairly common thing for women to feel self-conscious about, and I promise that your massage therapist doesn't care. It doesn't matter if it has been a couple of days, a couple of months, or if you don't shave at all. Your massage therapist is not judging you by your leg hair, armpit hair, or any other body hair you may have. As massage therapists, all I care about is that you are comfortable and able to relax. If you didn't shave your legs, don't worry about it.
One of the most common things for people to feel self-conscious about is their weight. Unfortunately, we live in a society that often judges people based on their size. I promise you that I am not passing judgement on your lifestyle or what you look like. I am just happy that you are taking time to do something good for yourself no matter what size you happen to be. Massage can actually be a great tool to help people reach and maintain a healthy weight, and it makes me sad to think of how many people don't utilize it out of fear of judgement. Whether you feel that you are too big, or too small, never let your size be what keeps you from getting a massage.
7. Your butt, belly, or thighs
Or any other body part that makes you feel self-conscious. We all have at least one body part that we hate. You may feel self-conscious having someone touch that part of your body. When I am working with a massage client, I am not looking for imperfections in appearance, but rather what I can do with your tissue to help you feel better. I am not looking at belly fat. I am feeling your abdominal muscles, the connective tissue, and the other structures that make up your body. I am not just touching your butt. I am working with your glutes, hip flexors, tendons, ligaments, etc. I think the human body is beautiful. I am fascinated by anatomy and how our bodies work. Please don't feel like you have to be self-conscious if you have an area of your body that concerns you. If you really don't want to be touched somewhere, tell your therapist before your session, and they won't work on that part. My goal is for you to be completely comfortable and relaxed.
8. You didn't take any clothes off
When you arrive for your massage, your therapist should tell you to undress to your comfort level. For some people, this means not taking off any clothes. That is just fine. You should never feel pressured to remove clothing if it makes you uncomfortable. I'm not going to lie, massage is easier and most beneficial without fabric covering the skin, but I can absolutely work over clothing, and any other massage therapist worth their salt can too. Feel free to leave on or take off as much clothing as you want.
9. You took all of your clothes off
On the flip side, some people remove all of their clothes and then feel awkward lying on the table under the drape naked. Trust me, your therapist is not judging you based on the amount of skin you are willing to bare. If you remove your clothing and then feel cold during your massage, please speak up. Let your therapist know that you are cold, and they may be able to give you a blanket, turn on/up a table warmer, or use a space heater.
On a somewhat related note, many people choose to leave on their underwear. That is totally acceptable, and please don't feel that you are being judged by what underwear you are wearing. You don't have to throw on your prettiest pair of lacy panties to try to impress your massage therapist. We don't even look at your underwear, so if you happen to be wearing something that is completely worn out with holes, or elastic sticking out, don't be embarrassed, we won't even notice.
10. Your health history
As a massage therapist, I recognize privacy and do not divulge your health history to anyone. There are certain things that we need to know. You may not understand why we need to know them, but we wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. Please fill out your health history thoroughly. Your massage therapist needs to know what medications you are taking, and if you have any health conditions, as what we do affects every system in your body. If you have a sexually transmitted disease or any kind of infection, we need to know so that we can take precautions not to be exposed. Don't be embarrassed by anything you are asked on your health history form. If you have any questions or wish to know why your therapist needs to know something, just ask.
11. Your income
I think that everyone deserves massage. It is such a great tool for our general health and wellness. I am also aware that not everyone can afford to receive regular massage. I often have people ask me how often they should be coming in. I can give you my opinion on the matter, but I never want it to become a financial hardship for you. Don't be embarrassed if you can't afford regular massage. There are other options to explore such as payment plans, and submitting a claim to your insurance company. Some insurance will reimburse you for therapeutic massage, especially if you can get a doctor's note. If you want to make massage part of your routine but don't feel that you can afford it, talk to your massage therapist about it and see if you can work something out.
I almost didn't put this section in. I have personally not had to deal with this issue since I started working exclusively with women. But I am not going to pretend that it can't be an issue for many therapists and their clients. Sometimes during a massage, it is possible to become aroused. The therapist is working with your circulation and sometimes things happen. How you deal with the situation dictates how your therapist deals with the situation. If you ignore it or it seems to make you uncomfortable, we will simply change the type of technique we are doing and not say anything. If you begin to make sexual advances toward your therapist or even joke about it in a sexual way, the session should be terminated.
I have a very strict policy that any type of sexual behavior results in the end of the session and you will pay the full amount for the appointment. Depending on the severity of your offense, charges may even be filed. Unfortunately, some therapists try to ride the session out as best they can because their employers don't protect them and they know if they end the session, not only will they have been assaulted, but they won't even get paid for their time. Don't be the client who makes sexual advances. Touching your therapist in a sexual manner constitutes sexual assault, and making verbal advances or touching yourself inappropriately is sexual harassment. The bottom line is, if you find yourself having a physiological response that suggests arousal such as an erection, don't feel embarrassed, and don't make advances. Just ignore it, or ask that your therapist move to a different technique or part of your body.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.