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These basic bodywork etiquette guidelines will help you get the most out of your massage, create a healthy client-therapist relationship, and address some of those unknowns.

It's All About Timing ~ Be good to yourself, and show up a few minutes early for your session. This allows you to transition into calm, healing space and focus on the massage. It also ensures you'll receive your full time allotment for the massage. 

When scheduling at a spa, most guests are asked to arrive early to prepare for their session, stow belongings, and even enjoy the facility's amenities, such as a steam room, before the scheduled service begins. New massage clients will also need to fill out health history intake forms.

If you do get held up in traffic and arrive late to your appointment, the therapist will probably not be able to give you a full session. Respect your therapist's time, call if you're going to be late, and understand that your session must end on time, regardless of when you arrived.

When it comes to cancellations, most spas and private practitioners require a 24-hour notice to avoid fees. Every situation is different, so check with your therapist about his or her specific cancellation policy, and then honor it.

Honor Your Body ~ Some people have a hard time even considering massage because they are so unhappy with their body. Primarily a female issue, poor body image can be extremely damaging. While it's hard to imagine that taking your clothes off and lying on a massage table will make the situation any better, massage therapy can do wonders to bring an individual back into body awareness. Bodywork can help mend the body-mind chasm that is created through self-hate, bringing the two pieces back together in a peaceful, healthy union.

Massage therapists and bodyworkers not only have advanced knowledge of tissues and structure, they also have a great appreciation for the human body as a whole, no matter its shape or size. 

Communicate ~ One thing that will make your massage both more enjoyable and more beneficial is communicating with your therapist. If the room is too warm, if the bolster under your legs isn't in the right spot, if the music is driving you batty--whatever the issue--let your therapist know right away so you can get back to the business of enjoying your massage. 

Skip Alcohol for Water ~ In resort settings, it can be hard to step away from icy margaritas on the beach to make that afternoon spa appointment. But the last thing you want is to be "tipsy" on the massage table. There are several downsides to being under the influence during a massage, the most important being how alcohol wreaks havoc with the body and can have a negative interaction when combined with bodywork. The result can be dizziness and nausea. That's no fun and a waste of good massage time and money. Leave the alcohol for another time. Water, before and after a therapeutic massage, is what the body really wants.

Won't Find That Here ~ It's unfortunate that massage therapists even have to address this subject, but they do. So the answer to late-night callers is, "No, we don't give happy endings. No, you may not pleasure yourself. Therapeutic massage has nothing to do with sex." If a misinformed client somehow ends up in the massage room of a professional therapist and asks for something other than therapeutic massage, they will be asked to leave. Flirting, inappropriate touching, and sexual innuendos will not be tolerated. Keep the relationship professional and above board and your therapist will be a valuable member of your healthcare team.

You're Human ~ The body can have a lot of responses to therapeutic massage. While avoiding food at least one hour before your massage will help, there's still the chance that you'll have tummy gurgles or even pass gas. It's okay. As the body relaxes and systems get moving, the body can play all kinds of tricks. Your therapist has seen it all, yet sees well beyond those kinds of issues.

For men, there's even a possibility that massage will cause an erection--a normal response to nervous system activation. It rarely occurs, but if it does, your therapist will likely shift the focus of the work.

Time To Wake Up ~ While a nap after your massage may sound lovely, other massage clients will be arriving soon and the room must be readied for them. When your massage concludes, your therapist will say something along the lines of, "Our session is over. Take your time getting up." That's your cue to take a moment as you come back to the here and now. Carefully sit up, allowing your body enough time to readjust. Go slow or else your body will knock you for a dizzying loop. Also, be careful not to slip getting off the massage table, especially if your therapist used oil on your feet.

Insights on Tipping ~ While it's customary to tip 15-20 percent, most experts say it's ultimately the client's decision. Like in other service industries, providing a tip is usually done in response to excellent service. A couple of notes: Many therapists who work in spas earn only a small percentage of what you've paid for their services. For these therapists, tips are an important part of their income. On the other hand, tips are usually not accepted for massage performed in a medical environment. Unsure what to do? Ask if tipping is customary and what is the policy.

Invest in your health

Massage Offers Excellent Return on Investment

"Invest for the long term" is great financial advice, but it's also great healthcare advice. Never is investing for the long term more important than when you are making day-to-day decisions about your health. There are short-term gains from taking care of your health, to be sure, but the long-term benefits are not to be underestimated. 

You already know the value of bodywork. For all the short-term stress and pain relief you get from massage today, there are lasting rewards you'll thank yourself for down the road. Massage therapy as a preventive measure and part of an ongoing care regimen can mean fewer visits to the doctor, as well as fewer co-pays, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Ultimately, it means a healthier and happier you.

An Excellent Value

As you plan the family budget, ponder how massage therapy impacts your ability to make good decisions, cope with extra responsibilities, stay on an even keel emotionally and spiritually, and maintain harmonious relationships with coworkers, family, and friends. 

Research supports the value of massage. Massage provides many benefits, including improved concentration, energy, circulation, and self-esteem, as well as reduced stress, fatigue, and pain. It's helpful with more acute health conditions, also. If you, or a loved one, are already dealing with a health condition, massage is an even more important part of your healthcare planning. 

Research shows: 

-- Alzheimer's patients exhibit reduced irritability, pacing, and restlessness after neck and shoulder massage. 

-- Deep-tissue massage is effective in treating arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis. 

-- Fibromyalgia patients receiving massage have fewer sleep problems and less anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain, and stiffness.

-- Massage during labor appears to help block pain, reduce stress and anxiety, and relax muscles. Some medical professionals say massage shortens labor.

-- Massage can reduce sports-related soreness and improve circulation, and is beneficial in reducing symptoms associated with arthritis, asthma, burns, high blood pressure, and premenstrual syndrome.

-- Oncology patients show less anxiety, depression, fatigue, nausea, and pain following massage therapy. 

-- Preterm babies receiving massage therapy gain more weight and have shorter hospital stays. 

-- Massage therapy is effective in reducing post-surgical pain and can even reduce the time required for post-operative hospital stays. 

You may be trimming some extras out of your budget, as many Americans are. When weighing what goes and what stays, consider what an excellent value massage is, especially in relation to things that may be less valuable, but still cost you plenty. The price of massage has remained stable in recent years, while the cost of movies, dining out, and sports events have risen. Which of these activities has the power to improve your health and which has a better return on investment? 

Get Creative 

​There are many ways to keep massage in your life if you use your imagination. While vacations are definitely needed right now by just about everybody, more and more Americans are staying closer to home and taking "staycations." How about planning a healthy, home-based vacation and including massage as part of your relaxation? 

When it comes to gift-giving occasions, why not give and ask for massage gift certificates? Massage makes a wonderful replacement for flowers that wilt, sweaters that don't fit, or another box of fattening candy. Some folks buy spa packages or put together their own outings with a massage, a museum excursion, or lunch at a favorite restaurant. Mothers, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers are enjoying spas together and massage is a key part of the package. These events create bonding experiences that launch new traditions and reinforce a healthy lifestyle.

Gift certificates for chair massage at airports are an option for weary travelers, as is chair massage at malls for package-laden shoppers. If you are an employer, consider gifting your staff with on-site chair massage, which has been shown to reduce stress and improve performance. Just think of it as the ultimate pat on the back for staff and one that pays you back. 

Maintain Well-Being

You may be tempted to trim your wellness budget when economic times are tough. Yet, a recent national consumer survey showed most massage-minded Americans are still committed to maintaining the health benefits they experience with massage. It only makes sense. The better you feel, the better job you can do of caring for yourself and your loved ones. Massage therapy will also help families under stress create healthier households, and more focused and relaxed moms and dads. Children are sensitive and often pick up on tension in a household, parents who are taking care of themselves are more likely to provide a sense of calm to their kids. This goes for caregivers of aging parents, too. 

Now, more than ever, massage should play a role in reducing your stress and strengthening your health. When people feel their best, they are more able to face the challenges difficult times present. With greater health and peace of mind, you can face difficulties with poise, clarity of purpose, and strengthened emotional reserves. 

Truly, massage is more than a luxury--it's a vital part of self-care that has a positive ripple effect on you as you work, play, and care for others. Investing in your health is one investment that's sure to pay off. 


Check out Integrative Fit Wellness for personal fitness training including new classes coming soon.

​I'm so honored to be part of the Athlete Medical Team as Sports MT at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.