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What Happens During a Massage?

Updated: May 30, 2020

So, you've booked your massage, you've prepared for it, and now you're walking into the building. What can you expect?

Your massage session starts with a short chat.

Arrive 5 minutes before your scheduled appointment time so you can relax and set aside the day.

We'll start with a short consultation to discuss your goals, perform assessments as appropriate, review your health history for contraindications, and plan the massage today. I'll let you know which areas I'd like to treat and get your permission before you're on the table; no surprise tummy massage! This is your chance to ask any questions you have or lay out any ground rules (e.g. "don't touch my hair, my feet are really ticklish").

Unlike most businesses, I do not take this intake time out of your massage. If you book a 60min massage, you get 60min on the table. Because of this, please allow a little extra time after your massage. If you're on a tight schedule, let me know during intake.

After the intake, you'll have the opportunity to undress in private "to your level of comfort." When a massage therapist says this popular phrase, we mean you can leave everything on if you want, or take everything off if you want. The most common choice is to take everything but your underwear off. Do what feels safe for you that day.

When you get a massage and the massage therapist tells you to undress to your level of comfort; comic by Kris Straub
Everyone's "level of comfort" is different. Comic by Kris Straub.

Then you'll get on the table and be covered by the sheet. You'll be covered by the sheet the entire session. A licensed massage therapist only undrapes the part of the body they're working, and they never undrape the buttcrack or genitals. Under certain conditions, and only after your explicit and written consent, a licensed massage therapist may undrape and massage the chest.

What am I supposed to do during a massage?

I practice Myofascial Release massage which is known for being deeply calming and introspective, and creating long-lasting pain relief. It's a little different than the usual "put on lotion and rub" type. Learn more about Myofascial Release.

During your massage, you may choose to talk or be quiet. Unless you start the conversation, I'm generally quiet so you have the opportunity to focus on your body and deeply relax.

You may initially focus on your breathing (take slow and complete breaths).

Try to notice the sensations in your body; some of the greatest shifts are internal, and when you're able to feel into, realize these connections, and allow for letting go, you'll get more out of the session.

If you have an itch, go ahead and scratch it.

If your arm is falling asleep, go ahead and move it.

If you feel like your head wants to roll to the side, let it.

I have no expectation that you'll be perfectly still like a corpse during your session. I want you to be comfortable!

That said, if I pick up a limb and move it around, try to stay relaxed if you can and let me do the work. It can help to think of your limb as heavy and warm and limp. I'll cue you if necessary.

I only ask one thing of you during your massage. If something makes you uncomfortable, please speak up so we can fix it. Everyone is different, and even the same person is a little different every day. With communication, we can calibrate to the perfect massage for you today.

Is it weird if...?

It's OK to have normal body processes during your massage. That means it's OK for your tummy to gurgle and for you to snore. At least half my clients snore, and I take it as a compliment!

I have one client who hums and sings during her session. Doesn't bother me at all. This is your time.

Some clients experience emotional release on the table, and may start crying or laughing during their session for no obvious reason.

Others go into unwinds where they toss, turn, and wiggle.

You are in control of the session.

Something funny happens when you get on the table, undressed, in someone else's space. It becomes harder to speak up and ask for what you want. I say this just to recognize that it happens, and empower you to overcome that awkwardness and speak up so we can create the perfect session for you.

Please know that you can change your preferences whenever you want. Just because you liked cupping last time doesn't mean you have to be in the mood for it today. You might want to chat when you normally prefer to fall asleep. Maybe we discussed abdominal massage during intake and you said OK, but once it starts it feels weird and you want to stop. It's all up to you. You're in control.

Finally, please know that you always have the right to end the massage at any time for any reason. You don't even have to explain why.

No matter where you go for massage, you are always the person in charge. Please remember that.

Ready for massage?

Massage has many benefits for your mental and myofascial (soft tissue) health. It relieves pain, improves mobility, and is extremely relaxing! If you've never had a massage before, I encourage you to give it a chance and see how good your body can feel.

Need some help choosing where to go? I broke down the pros & cons of massage chains, and the difference between relaxation and medical massage. There's a ton of variety in massage so your choice will make a big difference in your experience!


Jesse Martel is a Licensed Massage Therapist who practices in Seattle, Washington. She has helped many people overcome neck/shoulder injuries and chronic back pain with Upgraded Myofascial Release massage. Treatment includes Aromatherapy, Myofascial Release, Cupping, Lymphatic Drainage, and Kinesiology Tape at one flat rate. Her website is


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