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What to expect during a massage therapist visit

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If you’re new to massage, it’s good to have some idea of what’s commonly done during a session:

  • You’ll likely need to answer questions about your goals for your massage. For example, are you looking for relief in a specific area or solely to relax? Your massage therapist will also want to know about any medical conditions you might have.
  • You may need to undress or wear loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you’re comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet.
  • Most of the time, you will lie on your stomach at the beginning of your massage and then transition face-up. If unable to lie face down, your therapist may have you lie on your side. The therapist may use pillows or bolsters to take strain off your lower back and allow you to relax during the massage. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair that’s specially made to slope forward so the therapist can work on your back while you’re fully clothed.
  • Depending on preference, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any ingredients or are sensitive to certain scents.
  • Keep in mind that you shouldn’t feel significant pain during a massage, although some forms can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally, you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It may be uncomfortable while your therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.

Finding a massage therapist

Several types of health care professionals — such as physical therapists, occupational therapists and massage therapists — perform massage. Ask your doctor or someone else you trust for a recommendation. Most states regulate massage therapists through licensing, registration or certification requirements.

Don’t be afraid to ask a potential massage therapist questions:

  • Are you licensed, certified or registered?
  • What is your training and experience?
  • How many massage therapy sessions do you think I’ll need?
  • What’s the cost, and is it covered by health insurance?
This is expanded content from the September, 2021 Mayo Clinic Health Letter article titled “Massage Therapy.”

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