life: super powers not included

10 Tips For A Great Massage. (Hint: No. 1 Rocks. I Swear.)

Hot stone massagephoto by foundryparkinn

You can’t see me, so I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I write these posts hunched over my laptop. If you stare hard enough, I’m sure you can see a lopsidedness to my shoulders. That, my friends, is due to the twisted knots in my muscles.

I wouldn’t say I look like Quasimodo, but that’s how I feel. You see, while I’m at work I’m multitasking. I’m building great big knots in my shoulders and back and neck. It’s not an easy task, but if you work at a desk long enough you pretty much become an expert.

When the knots get big enough, you can try to massage them out. That works for a little bit, but nothing—nothing!—beats an honest-to-goodness massage. I should know. I grow shoulder knots like I’m getting paid for it.

The first time I got a massage, I thought I died and went to Heaven. Now that I’ve gotten a bunch more, I know that’s exactly what happened. So I can totally understand why researchers who analyzed a bunch of studies found that massage can relieve symptoms of depression. It’s. That. Amazing.

(In all seriousness, it’s hard to really determine the effects of massage in studies because you can’t really blind the participants. There’s no such thing as fake massage.)

Though it has nothing to do with the study, I’m pretty sure massage can also relieve the symptoms of stress. I conducted a study with me, myself, and I and lemme tell ya, I felt muuuch better.

Since I’ve had a lot of massages in the past, I thought I’d impart some massage wisdom. And then I’ll take up a donation for my next rubdown. (I have no shame, people. No shame.)

Foot massage
photo by foundryparkinn

1. I’m putting this at No. 1 because I’m a germaphobe and I consider this the single best massage tip I’ve ever heard. If the spa doesn’t provide a pre-massage foot bath (ask when you book), do it yourself. I don’t care if you have to hoist your leg up into the sink and scrub your foot down—do it. Think about all the grossness that’s on your feet (this is especially true if it’s summer and you’re wearing flip-flops or sandals). Then think about the fact that the massage therapist will likely be rubbing your feet before your face. Ick.

2. Unless you’re all New Agey, stick with a Swedish or Deep Tissue massage. I once got a Reiki massage that left me more stressed-out than I started. That’s because the massage therapist held her hands over my back so the energy would move. That’s all well and good if you believe that stuff, but if you have deep knots that need kneading and skin-to-skin contact, it’s an exercise in oily pointlessness. Consider yourself warned.

3. Speak up. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be a relaxing experience and you don’t want to chitchat, but unless your spa employs a mind-reading massage therapist, she’s not going to know whether the pressure is right unless you tell her. If you feel weird chirping in halfway through—you know, when you’re writhing in pain—then talk about your preference when you first enter the room. I make sure my massage therapist knows I like a hard massage right away so that I’m not secretly hoping she’ll dig in halfway through. (See the Reiki mention above. I learned my lesson.)

4. In the same way, don’t expect your massage therapist to know where you’re hurting the most. Unless, of course, we’re still talking about the mind reader. In which case, can you pass along her number? If your massage therapist is a mere mortal, you’re going to have to tell her things like, “My IT band is as tight as a frozen rubber band.” Or, “I slouch in front of a computer from 8 to 5 so my back and shoulders have turned to stone.”

Back massage
photo by zaphodsotherhead

5. If you’re concerned about what to wear, talk to the massage therapist. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said they could care less. Hear that? It’s not necessary to go commando. But do what’s comfortable for you. Oh, and if there’s an area you don’t want massaged—say, your butt—then say so.

6. Don’t automatically swear off men. For the longest time, I never got a massage from a male because, well, I’m modest. And then one day I got thrown in with Andre and oh my goodness. He was able to dig so deep into my back I felt sore for three days. He really worked out all the kinks, and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that he was taller and stronger.

7. The first few times I got a massage I was confused. Should I talk? Or stay quiet? Keep my eyes open when I’m lying on my back? Or shut them? Do what’s comfortable for you. In case you were wondering, I never talk (unless I’m apologizing for being so ticklish in four parts of my back) and I keep my eyes shut. It’s all about relaxing. And maybe definitely dozing off.

8. Be safe. If you have any medical conditions or if you’re pregnant, let your massage therapist know. She may need to adjust techniques. And some massages may not be OK for you. (And if you’re pregnant, check out the special pregnancy massages some spas offer.)

9. Follow directions. Your massage therapist will tell you to chug water for a reason. Don’t get a massage then drink your body weight in wine—you’re already going to be dehydrated.

10. Ok, now for all the stuff you should already know because you’re decent human beings but I’d be a fool to leave out: Show up on time, even early if your spa has a relaxing lounge with tea, citrusy water, and fashion magazines. Tip generously … unless of course there was something really rude or inappropriate going on.

I’d love to end this post by saying, “All right everyone, I’m off to the spa. It’s been way too long since my last deep tissue massage.” Um, yeah. Not happening. More realistic: All right everyone, I’m off to work. It’s been 14 hours since I last hunched over my desk and stared at a computer all day.*

Do you get massages? What’s your favorite kind? Any great pre-massage tips?

*If you are reading this and you are The Man, feel free to offer a massage gratis. I won’t complain.

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27 comments

1 Estela @ Weekly Bite { 04.06.10 at 8:45 am }

Now I want to go get a massage!

Deep tissue is my favorite :)

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2 FoodFitnessFreshair { 04.06.10 at 9:11 am }

I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a couple professional massages…and oh my are the amazing! You are right though in telling people to speak up. To get the most out of the experience, sometimes it definitely takes a little guiding in terms of pressure….I could so go for a massage right now!

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3 Elisa { 04.06.10 at 10:22 am }

I wish I loved massages. It sounds so relaxing, but I can’t even stand a light back rub. I had a traumatic experience in South Korea with massages. A naked grandmother doing karate chops on my back, yikes!

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Tracey Reply:

Elisa–That’s crazy and disturbing. No wonder you can’t stand massages!

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4 Sagan { 04.06.10 at 10:45 am }

Mmmm I feel relaxed just reading your tips.

I went to the hamam in Istanbul and it was FANTASTIC. Naked Turkish woman doing karate chops on my back, awesome! (Sorry, Elisa- but I’m actually being honest! It felt amazing).

I also had a full-body massage in Cambodia and that too was wonderful. I don’t think it’s something I’d do regularly, though, just because I enjoy the pure novelty of a really great massage.

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Tracey Reply:

Sagan—I think I’d be freaked out by the naked woman, but I’m very jealous you traveled to Istanbul and Cambodia. So cool.

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5 Nicole, RD { 04.06.10 at 11:12 am }

Looooooooove massages. I feel a bit relaxed after just reading this, too. We had massages a few weeks ago, and it was wonderful! It hurts so good, and since you love hard massages, I know you know what that’s like. I should book another one soon! :)

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6 Ameena { 04.06.10 at 11:17 am }

I have had a few good massages but most of the time they just hurt! Even when I say I like my massages very light, they just don’t get it. I am with you on #1 though, how gross. Not that I’d ever let them touch my face though. I have problems with people touching my face. I have lots of problems!!

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Tracey Reply:

Ameena–Perhaps you should try screaming in pain during the massage. ;)

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7 theemptynutjar { 04.06.10 at 11:20 am }

i feel that a massage could so benefit anyone. i would love them…too bad they aren’t free! i cant afford squat right now :)

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Tracey Reply:

Empty Nut Jar–Ah, yes. That’s the catch. And it’s why I don’t get them nearly as often as I’d like!

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8 Nicole, RD { 04.06.10 at 11:21 am }

I may have just booked a 1-hour massage for Friday… :)

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Tracey Reply:

Nicole– So. Not. Fair.

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9 Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly { 04.06.10 at 12:13 pm }

I have only had one massage and it was the worst experience! I was so bruised up and down my spine that it looked like I had been beaten! It was awful! And now I am too scared to do it again!

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Tracey Reply:

Kelly–Bruises on your spine? Good grief. Sounds like you either got a bad massage therapist or someone thought your back was a steel drum. Either way, ouch!

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10 brad { 04.06.10 at 1:44 pm }

great tips! thanks.

:)

namaste,

brad

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11 marie { 04.06.10 at 2:12 pm }

Brilliant! You just reminded me I need to book an appt! I’ve had a post-race massage after my last couple of half-marathons and it worked woooonders for me – I wasn’t even sore the next day!

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Tracey Reply:

Marie–I love sports massages on sore muscles like my legs. I whine about my back, but massages are so great for other overworked areas.

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12 Shannon (The Daily Balance) { 04.06.10 at 2:23 pm }

i NEED a message so badly! I like you tip about speaking up — I normally grin and bear it, but we are PAYING THEM and deserve to have a nice experience.

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Tracey Reply:

Shannon–That’s a good point. If you’re paying $50 to $200 (or more) for a massage, may as well speak up! That’s a lot of money for a bad experience.

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13 Jill { 04.06.10 at 3:07 pm }

Any tips for finding a good spa?

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Tracey Reply:

Jill–That’s a good question. I’m going to tackle that as a post. Oooh, the suspense! :)

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14 Jess (Fit Chick in the City) { 04.06.10 at 4:25 pm }

Funny thing, I’m sitting here with my friend who is a massage therapist!

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Tracey Reply:

Jess–Did I miss anything? Tell your friend to share her tips!

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15 Ellen { 04.06.10 at 11:14 pm }

Great tips! I learned #3 the hard way. The first time I got a deep tissue massage, it hurt SO much and I was cursing to myself for the ENTIRE 60 minutes, but I never said a peep. I was sore for days after. Now, I speak up!

http://www.firednfabulous.blogspot.com/

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Tracey Reply:

Ellen, Thanks for your comment. You’re the opposite of me. When I got the Reiki massage it was so light I was cursing to myself for the entire 60 minutes. We should have traded. :)

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16 Bernstein { 04.21.10 at 3:18 pm }

Thanks for providing such a great information. I believe its time for me to get a massage.

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