So often I have people come to me that tell me how much they love being massaged. Or, conversely, they tell me that they don't really care for massage, but perhaps they have a pain in their shoulder that they can't tolerate anymore and decided to try again. In essence, any type of touch therapy that you walk away happy with, is a good massage. However, to discriminating massage connoisseurs, there are several areas that distinguish between a so-so massage and and oh-so-wonderful one! Here are some things to consider when receiving a massage so you too can be an official massage aficionado!
~As a general rule, massages should feel good, like pain is being released, not pain being inflicted! (there are occasional exceptions to this rule that a good therapist will go over with you)
~The contact and firmness of the massage should be at a level that you enjoy. If you feel like you are being bruised or like your bones are being pushed on aggressively, it's important that you speak up and let the therapist know it isn't working for you. If the pressure is too light, let the therapist know that more pressure would be appreciated, and keep telling them until they get it right! This is your dollar that is buying this massage, it needs to be about your needs!
~A good massage therapist will direct the flow towards your heart. The lymphatic system goes in both ways, but the veins have valves that only open in one direction, towards your heart. It's important to keep the blood flow in that direction, rather than against those delicate valves. Light pressure massages will not affect the valves negatively, but a deep tissue massage can, so just be conscientious.
~If you feel a little sore for a day or two after a massage, don't worry! It means that your muscles were really worked over and your body has created some lactic acid to aid in the healing process. Just like working out, massages work the body. More massages and/or workouts, the less sore you will be after. If you aren't sore at all, you may have the type of body composition that just doesn't get sore easily, or you may want to try a firmer pressure massage next time.
~Conversation. Sometimes conversation happens during a massage, and that's okay...as long as that is what you want to happen. A good massage therapist should follow your cues. If you ask questions and stimulate conversation, she should follow until you cease to ask anymore questions. If you get quiet, so should she. Unless she needs to check- in with something massage related. Then, it is important for her to know how the pressure is, if you like something special, or are disliking a specific technique. It's important for her to use active listening skills, both verbal and non-verbal. Just know that you control what ultimately happens during your massage, you're paying for it! So, if you aren't wanting to talk, say so. Gently, of course...
~Temperature, music, and oils... they all play an important role in your receiving a good massage. If you are cold, you won't be able to relax as thoroughly as is optimal, so speak up and ask for a blanket. If you aren't digging the tunes, have her turn them off, change CD's, or at least turn the volume down. If you don't like the massage oil or lotion of choice, ask her if she has another option. Often times, there are alternatives available for your enjoyment.
The bottom line is this, you can't necessarily control the ability of the therapist, but you can at least control the atmosphere and tone of the massage by making your expectations and desires clear. And, if you still don't get the type of massage that you are hoping for, please try again with someone else. Each therapist will have a unique style and technique. So, get a recommendations from someone you know. Or, look at the reviews on Yelp! or Google, or Yahoo! They are real people, with real reviews of services they have received.