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Do you Get Massage or Bodywork? 5 Things Your Massage Therapist Wants You to Know

Getting a massage is often the highlight of a person's week. It's a break from the noise of life, feels good, and is a powerful tool for managing chronic stress and pain. Massage clients often have questions like, What clothes do I take off? Should I talk? What do I do if the pressure isn't to my liking? So like, do you ever change your music? Then there're some things you never asked about, but we'd like you to know anyway because they can make or break your massage experience or your relationship with your therapist. Here are five things your massage therapist wants you to know.

1) We're Not Magicians

Despite that fact that, sometimes, it seems like we work magic, we aren't magicians. We can't wave a wand and make your pain disappear in a single session. Bodies and chronic pain patterns are complex. Chronic and persistent pain is usually a combination of injury, poor postural habits, repetitive use stress, muscle restrictions and a cascading series of secondary pain that stem from the body's natural pain response processes. A single session is likely to reduce pain but not make it go away completely and certainly won't eliminate the root source. Entirely eliminating pain requires a combination of follow up sessions, postural corrections, a regular stretching routine, daily movement and a better awareness of how the areas of your body work together and interact with each other. All of which takes time and effort.

2) We're not Mind Readers

Massage therapists tend to be intuitive. Those highly skilled at technique and listening can often find the right spot to work without more than a general direction from the client themselves. Sometimes, we really do "sense" where to go on a client's body. We do this by drawing on our toolbox of techniques, knowledge of anatomy and paying close attention to how the muscles respond under our hands, how the body visibly responds to the work, and by picking up on non-verbal cues like shifts in breathing.

It might seem like we know the exact thing you want and need out of a session, but we're not actually mind readers. How a person experiences a massage session varies wildly based on their own individual likes, dislikes and tolerance levels. While we can reasonably intuit a lot, it isn't possible - or fair - to expect us to know everything.

There are many variables that impact a client's experience of a massage. Things like pressure, focus areas, speed, temperature, music or pillow positioning can all be adjusted so you can be at complete ease, but unless you speak up, we won't know something isn't to your liking. And we really want things to be to your liking.

3) No-Shows and Last Minute Cancels Really Bum Us Out

When you book a massage, you make an agreement. We'll hold our time for you and provide a service, and you'll show up and pay a fee. Massage therapists have a specific amount of time each week to see clients, and our income relies on clients showing up for agreed upon appointments. A last-minute cancellation is when there isn't reasonable enough time to fill that empty slot, meaning the therapist doesn't get paid for the time they reserved for you. Our time is valuable, and while we may be natural caretakers who enjoy our work, we also have living expenses, families and expensive responsibilities - just like you.

Even worse than last minute cancellations are no-shows. Ghosting on your massage therapist is just plain rude. There's no good excuse not to call, text or email to tell us you can't make your appointment. Unless there's a catastrophic, life-changing emergency - in which case, forget about us and be with your family.

Your massage therapist planned their day around the time they reserved for you. Canceling an appointment at the last minute or failing to show up creates wasted time and opportunity for everyone, including other clients who would have liked to have had an appointment.

We're all human, and that fickle trickster life can sometimes pull a fast one, leaving you unable to make that massage you were looking forward to. When this happens there are some best practices that demonstrate you respect and value the therapist's time.

Send someone else in your place: Finding a trusted friend or family member to take your appointment is a way to avoid wasting your massage therapist's time. Always check with your therapist first and ask if they're comfortable with this, and be prepared to hear "no" if it's someone they haven't worked with before.

Pay for the session in full: Most massage therapists have policies that require full or partial payment for missed appointments, but even if yours doesn't, let them know you'll pay for their time. Acknowledging the value of their time goes a long way to showing your respect for their work and humanity and avoids souring a potentially healing relationship.

4) Consistency and Regularity Matters a Lot

The more we work with a client, the more impactful our sessions are. Each time you come in for your massage, we're more familiar with your preferences, how your body responds to aspects of our technique and the patterns to where and how you hold stress. This familiarity allows us to zero in on what will be most beneficial to you.

More importantly, consistent massage addresses muscle tension and pain patterns before they start furiously screaming at you. Life goes on, after all, and once you leave your massage session, you'll jump right back into lifting toddlers, schlepping bags or plunking down in front of a computer for hours and hours. Those repetitive movements and life activities that caused your aches and pains will creep up on you again in no time. That's why regularity is a key to making massage work for you.

5) Self-Care is Really Helpful

Remember how we're not magicians? Much of our effectiveness as manual therapists depends on your self-care between sessions. Clients who prioritize eating well, stretching, daily movement and engaging in stress reduction activities are more readily receptive to the physiological changes facilitated by massage and often enjoy the benefits longer. By becoming an active partner in your health, you gain a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection and a better awareness of how the systems in your body work together. When you're more attuned to your body, it's easier to effectively communicate with your massage therapist, elevating your massage from good to great. Massage and Bodywork Therapies are powerful healing tools but should only comprise a part of your health and wellness maintenance program.

The Nitty Gritty

When you book a massage, do so responsibly: put the appointment in your calendar immediately to avoid double-booking yourself, be realistic about your schedule so you don't over-book yourself and have a plan in case you can't make it. Respect for your therapist's time and value helps to avoid souring a healing client-therapist relationship.

Your path to musculoskeletal health and vitality is an ongoing one. A great massage releases tension, reduces pain and leaves you feeling like all is right with the world, but it isn't a cure all. The poor postural habits, repetitive use of your body and general life stressors that got you to the point of overwhelming stress and pain in the first place aren't going to disappear over night.

A passively received massage can offer a lot of short term benefits. But, managing chronic stress and freeing yourself from persistent and reoccurring pain requires you to be an active partner with your massage therapist by getting regular care and maintaining healthy off-the-table habits between sessions. The better care you take when you're off the table, the more receptive you'll be to work done on the table. In addition, learning how to communicate effectively with your massage therapist before, during and after your session can turn a good massage into a great one, allowing you to get the most physical and mental healing benefits of massage.

With the correct perspective and some simple and intentional effort, you can elevate your massage session from a feel-good indulgence to a vital part of a robust health and wellness maintenance plan.

Stay curious. Stay humble. Stay kind.




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Hey there, I'm Juliette (She/her) – I'm a Bodyworker and Writer.

I run a thriving massage practice in the East Bay California, where I've helped thousands of people feel amazing in their bodies.
When I'm not helping people feel better in their bodies or writing about wellness, practice-building and the messy art of being human, you can find me hanging with my family, curled up with some chocolate and a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area with my pup.

My daily grind involves battling my brain to carve out a space for healthier living, personal growth, and a pinch more self-love. It's an ongoing challenge!

Join me as I explore wellness of the head, heart and body. 

Stay curious, stay humble, stay kind.



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Juliette Wilk is a licensed and certified Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience. She runs a thriving private practice in East Bay California, where she's helped thousands of people feel better in their bodies. When she's not helping people achieve a state of bliss or writing on wellness and practice-building topics, you can find her hanging with her family and pup, curled up with a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area. Work with her or read more @


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