What to Know When Getting a Massage, Part 1

March 14, 2022

There is nothing quite as amazing as a good massage. That feeling of truly and deeply sinking into a state of relaxation and ease. Of having tension released and trouble spots improved. This kind of massage experience relies on many elements that create a positive, productive dynamic between client, therapist, and the body. These elements can be easy to forget, or you may not even be aware of many of them! But when your actions and expectations for a massage are not on point, the quality and satisfaction of your experience can be compromised.

So we would like to break down some of the things that you should know before getting a massage! Even if you have been getting massages for a while, these tips are for you, too. Some are specific to our particular arrangements at IWC, but most are generally applicable to all massage experiences. This first part of the two-part series will cover what happens before the massage begins as well as some of the tips for during the massage. Let’s dive in!


  • When getting a massage: You are receiving therapy from a highly trained massage therapist.  Your therapist is trained to assess and work your muscles, to have a clinical approach, and to provide homework. Your therapist is trained to know what modality will work best for a personalized approach. A “masseuse” implies an antiquated word where the person most likely lacks education and proper licensing.
  • Appointment time: Your appointment time includes reviewing your intake paperwork, undressing and dressing, receiving your massage, and having your outtake conversation with the therapist. In order to make the most of your experience, please arrive early so that you can complete your paperwork without delaying your massage time. Arriving late means the therapist may have to reduce your time on the massage table.
  • Format of the space: For your massage, you will have a private curtained booth to dress, undress, and receive your massage. This booth is next to other curtained booths in our large clinic room. Due to the curtain partitions, we ask all clients and therapists to use quiet tones when speaking, out of respect for the other clients. Students are required to leave the curtains slightly parted during your massage so that instructors are able to observe.
  • Undressing: To prepare for your massage, the therapist will instruct you to undress “to your level of comfort.” Remember that the therapist will treat your clothes as their boundary point for treatment so that you feel comfortable. But do keep in mind that any clothing you keep on can affect what the therapist is able to do during the massage. For example, if you leave your bra on, the Therapist may not be able to fully access you back muscles. Remember, this is a clinical setting and our students are trained professionals. The more access they have to your muscles and attachment points, the more relief and relaxation they are able to provide for you. There are state regulations that require certain parts of the body to be covered with draping for the duration of a massage, so even if you want to remove undergarments there will be no risk of exposure. Wait until the therapist exits and fully secures the curtain before undressing and getting on the table.
  • Pregnancy positioning: If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, our policy requires your student therapist to place you in a side lying position for the massage. This is to protect the welfare and comfort of both mother and baby. Please be sure to disclose on your intake form whether you are pregnant or actively trying to be.
  • Intake form and disclosures: Before you meet your therapist, you will complete a short intake form that they will reference to create your unique massage experience. Please be sure to disclose any health conditions you have or any medications you are taking as this information can require accommodations during the massage. Whether you are taking blood thinners, for example, or have athlete’s foot will affect your therapist’s approach. Our students are well trained in these accommodations of pressure, positioning, and technique, and you can trust them to know what to adjust based on the information you provide. Do not be afraid to provide all relevant information because you think we might refuse you treatment. Your therapist does need to know how best to work with your body and its particular needs. So please fully and honestly complete the intake form (another good reason to arrive early so that you aren’t feeling rushed through the paperwork!)
  • Communication during the massage: Good communication is the key to a successful, enjoyable massage experience! Your therapist should check in with you throughout the massage to make sure the pressure and positioning are comfortable for you. Please be honest with them! They truly want to know! Keep in mind, even during the most intense moments of pressure the discomfort should never exceed 5-7 on a scale of 1-10. When your therapist asks how the pressure is, he or she genuinely wants to know. You won’t hurt any feelings by giving an honest response! Remember that your therapist is there for you, so be sure to let them know if you need any adjustments in temperature, bolster position, or anything else to make you comfortable.
  • Physical and emotional reactions during the massage: Release yourself from any concerns about physical or emotional reactions you may have during your massage. Passing gas, for example, is common while on the table, and therapists are accustomed to it. It is also expected that clients may sometimes experience emotional releases when certain parts of your body that have stored emotions are triggered during bodywork. We store trauma in the fascia of our muscles, therefore, massage therapy can trigger emotions, causing an emotional release. It could be grief, sadness, laughter, fear, or any other emotions that your body has held onto. Our therapists will not be shocked by any kind of release and will encourage you to let the release happen. Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the profession, so your entire massage experience will remain confidential.
  • Expect each therapist and session to be different: It is helpful to remember that every therapist and even every massage session is unique. Even if you see the same therapist, your experience each time will be different based on what is going on physically, mentally, and emotionally for you at that time. That is the beauty of getting massages; each session and therapist meets your body where it is! Additionally, because our therapists are still students, each one is at a certain point in the program, which determines their level of knowledge and experience. Just because the student therapist at your last massage knew a certain technique does not mean that the next one will. Thank you for being understanding of this variety and for making an invaluable investment in their education by visiting our clinic!


This post is Part 1 of the series, so be sure to check back in for Part 2 covering more things to know when getting a massage!

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