Massage Etiquette: 14 Basic Rules

Massage Etiquette
When receiving a massage, arriving on time, clean, and hydrated is important. Try to have a light meal a little while before the massage, but don’t have anything too large or heavy. Undress to your comfort level, and don’t make inappropriate comments to the masseuse. Communicate with your massage therapist before, during, and after the massage.

1. Medical Concerns

Before you begin a massage, you should disclose any medical conditions you have to your massage therapist. If you are injured, any good, licensed massage therapist knows how to massage you in a way that won’t aggravate your injury.

It is even important for them to know about any allergies or skin conditions you might have. The oils or lotions they use might give you a reaction if they aren’t aware that something could aggravate your skin.

2. When and What to Eat

You should never go for a session on an empty stomach. The massage process stimulates digestion, so if you haven’t eaten, the massage will most likely make you feel extremely hungry, ruining your enjoyment of the session.

Equally, don’t eat a huge meal just beforehand. Similarly to the above point: because massage stimulates digestion, having a stomach full of heavy foods could make you feel uncomfortable rather than relaxed during happy hour.

3. Be Clean

Shower and clean yourself before appointment

Over 34% of massages happen in a spa setting. Proper spa etiquette is to have a quick rinse after getting changed into your swimsuit, but even if you are having a private massage outside of a spa environment, it’s a good idea to go in clean. This is for two main reasons:

Firstly, a nice warm shower relaxes your body and mind and washes away much of the stress and grime of the day. It sets you up in the right physical and mental state.

Secondly, it is polite for your massage therapist to be clean before they have to touch you. It isn’t pleasant to perform massage therapy on somebody who is very dirty, so it is best to come freshly washed.

4. Be on Time

Always be on time for a massage appointment, especially if it’s your first time. Keeping your massage therapist waiting is rude, and proper etiquette always dictates showing up promptly.

Arriving early also gives you time to relax and not feel rushed going into the session. Massage is all about wellness and relaxation – it can be hard to get in that mind frame if you are running to the massage table!

5. Communication

Communicate with your masseuse about the pressure and comfort level throughout the massage.

If something hurts, tell them! Otherwise, they won’t know to stop. Equally, if you are having a deep tissue body massage and feel more pressure would be helpful, it’s important to speak up and say so.

6. Turn off Your Phone

Turn off your cell phones and tablets during a massage, or, better yet, leave them outside the massage room.

One of the reasons massages are good for your mental health is that they allow you to unwind and step away from the outside world – don’t ruin that by checking your phone or being interrupted by constant text and email alerts!

7. To Undress or Not To Undress?

When getting a massage, it is often required that you strip down to at least your undergarments to allow the masseuse full access to your body. Bra straps and underwear can get in the way, especially during working on your glutes, so many people prefer to be massaged nude.

However, there is nothing wrong with keeping some clothes on to protect your modesty. You will often be offered disposable undergarments to avoid your clothes getting stained with lotion or oils.

Even if you are nude, you won’t be fully exposed. A drape is used to cover up your whole body except the body part being worked on.

Try not to be self-conscious. Massage therapists see hundreds of bodies a week and really aren’t there to look at you. They just want to help you relax and feel better about yourself.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Don’t hesitate to ask questions during your massage. Getting information on the massage techniques or the type of massage implemented can better help you understand your body and why you are holding tension in certain places.

Try not to treat it like a lecture – you want to relax, not take notes! But definitely ask a few questions to get to know your body better.

9. Be Appropriate

Even though a massage can be an intimate experience, that does not give you the license to make inappropriate jokes or comments. The masseuse is a professional who does not want you to make them feel uncomfortable in their workplace.

Some people make jokes when they’re nervous as a form of small talk. Even if this is the case, and you are joking to set yourself at ease, making suggestive comments can upset the massage therapist and should be avoided at all costs.

10. Leave a Tip!

Just as in any service job, it is polite to tip your masseuse. The standard rate for tipping is 15-20% of the cost of the session.

Also read: 8 Tattoo Tipping Etiquette and Considerations

11. Leave Time After

Try not to rush straight out of your massage and back into the stresses of daily life. This will likely undo all the good work done by your massage therapist!

If you can, try to leave at least an hour after your session. This will give you time to shower, treat yourself to a coffee, and allow that relaxation to spill over into the rest of your day.

12. Provide Feedback

Be sure to give feedback after the session, especially if you are booking multiple appointments with the same person.

Though massage therapists are very knowledgeable, every person and body is different, so it helps to tell them when something has worked.

13. Stay Hydrated

Massages stimulate a lot of the body’s natural processes, and so it is very important to stay hydrated after a session.

Try to come to the session nicely hydrated, and then drink lots of water in the aftermath to support your body’s recovery and removal of toxins.

14. Be Careful with Exercise

After a massage, try to leave 24 hours before doing any strenuous exercise (running, weight lifting, sports, etc.).

Your muscles are softer and looser following a massage, making you more likely to injure yourself. Give it a day before hitting the gym!

How long should the massage last?

leg massage
masseuse giving leg massage

A massage typically takes 50 minutes to an hour. Some specialist types of massages (i.e., just focusing on the hands or legs) may be quicker; however, for a full body treatment, at least an hour is usually required.

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What should you do when receiving a massage?

Lie there and relax! Follow the instructions of the masseuse and try to enjoy the process. Make small talk if it helps you not be nervous, especially if it is your first time, but try not to talk through the whole session.

Use the hour as a mindfulness exercise to really get in touch with your mind and body.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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