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Massage 101: Common Questions About Massage Therapy

How much does a massage cost? What’s the difference between a deep tissue massage and Swedish massage? You have questions about massages, we have answer in our comprehensive massage FAQ.

Cost? Benefits? General Questions About Massage

1. How much do massages cost?

The cost of a massage can range quite a bit depending on the type of massage, the duration, and where you get the massage. An average 60-minute massage will cost around $70 while a 90-minute massage will cost around $100. Average prices in New York and Chicago tend to run higher while prices in LA, Houston run lower.

2. What are the health benefits of a massage?

Incorporating massage as part of your regular wellness routine will help you maintain your overall physical, mental and emotional well-being. It improves blood circulation throughout the body, reduces stress and tensions, stimulates the lymphatic system, relieves muscle cramps, helps manage pain, and much more.

3. Do I have to take off all my clothes during a massage?

No, the option of being completely nude is yours to make. If you do decide to go au naturel, the therapist will leave the room and allow you time to get covered under the sheets before returning. Throughout the massage, most of your body will be covered with sheets and only the parts of the body that are being massaged are exposed. If you are uncomfortable with complete nudity, feel free to ask the therapist if you can keep on your underwear to remain within your comfort level. For massages that use oils, such as a Swedish Massage, you will need to remove most of your clothing to experience the full benefits of the massage.

4. Should I tip for the massage?

The option to tip is up to the client. If the massage is received in a medical or chiropractic office, most people don’t tip because it is not customary in such a setting. However, if the massage is received in a spa, tips of 15%-20% are quite common because spas are a part of the personal service industry.

5. Will a massage hurt?

No, a massage should not hurt. If the therapist is applying too much pressure for your comfort, you should politely ask them to use a lighter touch. Just be cognizant of the type of massage you are going in for. Some massages, particularly deep tissue, shiatsu, trigger point, and therapeutic massages come with an expected level of discomfort because more intense pressure is needed to work out the areas of tension or achieve the desired health goals.

6. How often should I get a massage?

This varies greatly from person to person and depends on your budget and what you hope to achieve with the massage. There is no set schedule that you need to abide by. That said, getting a massage once every two weeks or even once a month is enough to keep your muscle tissues relaxed and pliable.

7. What is included in a full body massage?

A full body massage includes the back, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, hands and feet.

8. What do I do during a massage?

The only obligation you have during a massage is to yourself. Position yourself so that you feel comfortable. If the therapist needs you to adjust your position, they will let you know.

Swedish? Thai? Different Types of Massage and What to Expect

9. What is a Swedish Massage?

The Swedish Massage is considered one of the most standard types of massages and is a great place to start if this is your first massage. The therapist will apply oil to your skin and use long strokes and circular palm movements, working the outer layers of muscle. The massage typically starts with your back and will cover your legs, arms, neck, and shoulders. This massage is great for relaxation and stress relief. The average price for a 60-minute Swedish Massage is $72, with New York and Chicago on the high end while LA and Houston are on the low end.

10. What is Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage involves intensive kneading and friction techniques targeted at the layers of deep muscle and connective tissues. It is generally used to loosen up chronically tight muscles, correct postural problems, and aid in the client’s recovery from an injury. There should be communication between the client and the therapist to determine the right amount of pressure. While there may be some discomfort, it should not be too painful. There is a high probability that the client will feel sore the next day. The average price for a 60-minute Deep Tissue Massage is $78, with New York and Chicago on the high end and Los Angeles and Houston on the low end.

11. What is Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage involves the use of smooth and heated stones that are placed along certain points of the body to loosen up muscle tensions. Many people find the warmth from the stones to be comforting and it’s not uncommon to fall asleep during one of these sessions! In addition to the warmth of the stone, the shape of the stone also helps the therapist target areas of tension. Hot stone massages tend to cost more than the average massage because of the time it takes to prepare and clean the stones. The average price for a 60-minute Hot Stone Massage is $94, with New York ($100) and Chicago ($104) on the high end and LA ($78) and Houston ($79) on the low end.

12. What is Shiatsu Massage?

Shiatsu originates from Japan and focuses on applying pressure with the fingers in a rhythmic sequence along the body’s 12 meridians to help balance the flow of chi. In addition to targeting pressure points, Shiatsu also utilizes kneading, stretching and breathing as a way to rebalance the body. While not medically proven, champions of Shiatsu believe that it helps relieve a host of ailments, including nausea, anxiety, PMS, digestive issues, headaches, high blood pressure and depression. Shiatsu can be performed on either a table or on in a sitting position on the floor. Since no massage oil is involved, you do not need to disrobe.

13. What is a Thai Massage?

Thai massage is one of the most energizing types of massage available. It involves applying pressure along the body’s meridians coupled with the stretching and compressing of the body. The therapist actively moves around engaging with your body and stretching it in a sequence of postures that will help improve your flexibility and reduce stress. Many people liken it to yoga. Unlike most massages where you are laying on a massage table, the Thai massage may happen on the floor. This allows the therapist to better stretch and position your body. Also, since no oil is being applied you can remain fully clothed (hopefully in something comfortable!).

14. What is a Couples Massage?

A couples massage allows two people to receive massages at the same time, in the same room, though by separate massage therapists. Even though it’s called a couples massage, you don’t necessarily have to be a couple to get this massage. Friends and mother/daughter pairings often will opt for a couples massage to spend time together. In total, there will be four people in the room, the two clients and the two therapists. The clients have the freedom to talk to each other during the massage or remain silent; whatever feels most comfortable for them.

15. What is a Pregnancy or Prenatal Massage?

Increasingly popular, expectant mothers sign up for pregnancy massages to help relieve their body’s aches and pains, decrease swelling in their joints, and reduce stress and anxiety. Be sure that the therapist giving the massage is certified in pregnancy massage and know the proper way to position and support the woman’s body during the treatment. Generally, the expecting mom is either positioned on her side with pillows to help support her stomach and ensure proper body alignment, or in a semi-reclining position. You should not receive a pregnancy massage while lying flat on your stomach, especially after the initial weeks of the first trimester.

16. What is a Reiki Massage?

The term Reiki comes from the Japanese language with “rei” translating to universal and “ki” meaning the vital life energy that flows through all living things. It is regarded as an ancient healing technique where the practitioner conducts healing energy through their hands and into your body. You are fully clothed during the treatment and the practitioner uses a series of non-invasive hand positions on or near the body. People who experience Reiki frequently mention feeling heat or tingling and leaving the session feeling refreshed and a sense of calm.

17. What is a Trigger Point Massage?

Trigger points are tight spots found deep within muscle fiber that trigger pain and discomfort. A Trigger point massage addresses these areas of pain by targeting them and applying isolated pressure to deactivate them. As you may imagine, a trigger point massage is not the most pleasant experience. Thus, make sure that you are vocal with the therapist and voice any intense discomfort you may have. It frequently takes multiple sessions for the trigger point to be fully deactivated.

18. What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage or Lymph Massage?

A lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle massage that targets the body’s lymph nodes to increase the lymphatic system’s ability to drain toxins and other harmful wastes from the body. While beneficial for everyone, lymphatic drainage is exceptionally beneficial for people who have had surgery or issues with their lymph nodes, for example, breast cancer patients who may have had lymph nodes removed. To help the drainage, the therapist will use light pressure, strokes, and taps on the surface of the skin to stimulate the lymph nodes and drain toxins. To better flush the toxins out, it’s recommended that patients drink plenty of water after the treatment.

19. What is Aromatherapy Massage?

An aromatherapy massage includes the basic elements of a massage with the addition of essential oils made from plants. It is believed that you can reduce stress and achieve a better emotional and mental state by inhaling the essential oils and absorbing them through the skin. Depending on the specific client needs, a mixture of different essential oils will be used as different essential oils have different properties. For example, chamomile and lavender are calming, ylang ylang and clary sage are uplifting, rosemary is energizing, and tea tree is decongesting. If you are pregnant, you may want to check with your doctor or the massage therapist to determine whether an aromatherapy massage is safe for you.

20. What is a Therapeutic Massage?

A therapeutic massage is given with the goal of achieving a therapeutic benefit rather than relaxation. The specific goal of this type of massage can vary depending on what is looking to be achieved. Generally though, a therapeutic massage is great for loosening muscles and increasing flexibility. Apart from a difference in goal, a therapeutic massages also tends to focus on certain targeted areas rather than covering the entire body. Additionally, clients are expected to be actively communicate with their therapist.

21. What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is an ancient Chinese medical art that involves applying focused pressure to certain reflex points on the feet. It’s believed that these reflex points correspond to specific organs and systems in the body and that applying pressure to them can improve your physical health and help in the treatment of medical conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer. Practitioners of reflexology may refer to maps of reflex points to better treat specific parts of the body. While they mostly use their hands, they may also rely on other tools like sticks of wood to help apply targeted pressure. Reflexology should not be painful, but it may cause discomfort – although some people find reflexology to be very relaxing, especially after a long day spent on their feet. Because reflexology focuses on the feet, you do not need to disrobe for this treatment. Lastly, it is important to note that the term reflexology has been adopted to casually mean “foot massage” – with some establishments focusing on relaxation rather than therapeutic treatment. This is important to keep in mind when choosing a provider.

22. What is a Lomi Lomi Massage?

A lomi lomi massage, also known as a Hawaiian massage, uses long, smooth, continuous strokes to release stress and bring the mind and body into balance. People commonly liken the strokes to gentle waves rolling over the body. There is a strong spiritual component to the lomi lomi massage and therapists will usually start the massage by placing their hands on the client’s back and praying for healing. Something to note is that unlike other massages where your body is mostly covered, usually your body is uncovered with a small towel placed to cover genitals. This enables the therapist to execute under-body and full-body strokes without obstruction and more easily massage multiple parts of the body at once.

23. What is a Sports Massage?

A sports massage focuses on preventing and treating injury due to training as well as enhancing athletic performance. It involves a combination of techniques that help loosen the muscles and increase flexibility, as well as treat specific problem areas like a sore neck or stiff knees. Athletes may get a sports massage before and after an event, with the therapist focusing on stimulating the body before the event and normalizing, restoring, and rehabilitating the body after the event. This can help improve performance and reduce recovery time.

24. What is a Medical Massage?

Similar to therapeutic massages, a medical massage is results oriented and focused on treating a specific problem or condition. A medical massage is usually prescribed by a physician and the massage is focused on treating the specific area and condition outlined by the prescription. A medical massage is not limited to any specific massage technique and can incorporate myofascial release, trigger point therapy, muscle testing, and rehabilitative stretching procedures. Medical massage may also be known as clinical or treatment massages.

25. What is Raindrop Therapy?

Raindrop therapy combines aromatherapy with Tibetan vita flex and Native American feather stroke. In raindrop therapy, therapeutic grade, undiluted essential oils are used to boost the body’s immune system, release toxins, and help correct the spine from curvature in a non-invasive manner. The oils are dripped along the spine in drops before being massaged into the back. After the application of the oils, heat is applied using wet towels or other moist compress to allow for deeper penetration. Raindrop therapy is believed to have numerous benefits, helping with stress, pain relief, circulation, and inflammation. Note, because the essential oils are undiluted, it is important to discuss any allergies you may have with your therapist. Common oils used include valor, oregano, thyme, basil, wintergreen, marjoram, cypress, and peppermint.

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