12 Secrets of Massage Therapists
DON’T CALL THEM MASSEUSES
Getting a good massage can be a blissful experience. Whether
you get a deep tissue, shiatsu, reflexology, or Swedish massage, you'll
hopefully feel serene and pampered afterward. But massage therapists do much
more than simply knead your muscles and decrease your stress. We spoke to a few
to learn their secrets of their relaxing trade.
“I think that all massage therapists cringe at the term masseuse
Stevie Duren, a certified massage therapist at Blissful Bodywork in
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, tells mental floss
. Although some people use
the terms masseuse
and massage therapist
Duren says that masseuse
has a sexual innuendo and implies a lack of
education. Regulations vary by state, but most massage therapists undergo
hundreds of hours of training, learn multiple bodywork modalities, and pass an
exam to become certified or licensed. And they must complete continuing
education credits to stay up to date with the latest research and techniques.
The word masseuse
, however, doesn’t bother licensed massage
therapist Nicki Dekunchak, who owns Philadelphia’s Hands at Home
people don’t know the proper term is massage therapist,” Dekunchak says.
THEY HOPE YOU'LL SHOWER FIRST
Because massage therapists get up close and personal with your body, the way
you smell doesn’t go unnoticed. Although you may be planning to shower after
the massage, be considerate and practice good hygiene before your massage as
well. But don’t worry if you haven’t shaved
your legs—massage therapists aren’t looking at
your stubble, and it doesn’t affect their treatment plan.
If you shower before your massage, allow enough time for your hair to dry.
According to licensed massage therapist Michelle Doetsch, wet hair can cause
moisture to seep through
the sheet on the massage table into the
padding underneath. If the padding gets wet, Doetsch has to change it before
her next client’s appointment and do an extra load of laundry.
THE BENEFITS GO BEYOND THE
Massage can be both a complementary healthcare practice (accepted by some
medical insurance plans) for people with chronic pain and injuries and a
relaxing, spiritually nourishing activity.
According to licensed Illinois massage therapist Rick Smith, no field is quite
as massage therapy. “When someone comes to me for help,
I'm truly honored. In only a few sessions massage therapy can relieve, to one
degree or another, physical stress and discomfort, muscular pain, emotional
stress and tension, limited range of motion, and that overall feeling of
malaise. And all without drugs or invasive procedures,” he says.
YOUR MULTITASKING MIGHT NOT
Although getting a massage can be the ideal time to unplug, relax, and
forget about emails, some people text, work, or tweet on their phones while
they get a massage. In her office, Duren doesn’t allow clients to have their
phones turned on (except for extenuating circumstances), but if she’s working
elsewhere, she lets the client choose.
“I would rather have a client make time to receive bodywork and feel that
they can still do what they have to do, rather than using the excuse that they
don't have the time to get bodywork,” she says. Dekunchak echoes that
sentiment, explaining to mental floss
that she has a handful of
clients who need to work during their massage. “My motto is it’s your time. Do
what you want with it!”
THEY CAN SPOT POTENTIAL SKIN CANCER.
Because they see parts of your body that you might not be able to easily
see—think the back of your hips or behind
your knees—massage therapists can spot
irregular or suspect moles. If you get
regular massages with the same massage therapist, it’s even more likely that he
or she will notice any changes in your skin and suggest you go to a
Although you remove your clothes
(and underwear, if you wish), lie on a massage table, and receive physical
pleasure, don’t mistake your massage therapist for a sex worker. The American
Massage Therapy Association’s Code of Ethics states that massage therapists shall “uphold the
highest standards of professionalism” and “refrain from engaging in any sexual
conduct or sexual activities involving their clients in the course of a massage
therapy session.” Therapists are also required to properly drape their clients,
only undraping an area while they’re massaging it.
IF YOU’RE NOT PUNCTUAL, THEY
MIGHT HAVE TO SKIP LUNCH.
Because massage therapists are usually paid for their time, don’t be late to
your appointment. You’ll either miss out on the full time of your massage, or
you’ll make your massage therapist’s day more stressful.
Besides massaging clients, therapists might need to change the linens,
sanitize the table, return oils and other tools to their proper places, and
respond to emails and phone calls. Showing up late means that your massage
therapist might not have enough time to complete all their responsibilities and
THEY RELY ON TIPS TO MAKE
Most massage therapists don’t make a ton of money ($43,000 was the mean annual
in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and because the
work hours are irregular, some of them also work a second job to pay the bills.
Unless they own their own business, they only earn a percentage of the
price you pay.
So whether they work as an independent contractor in a spa or for an hourly
wage in a medical clinic, most massage therapists rely on tips to make ends
meet. If you’re satisfied with the quality of your massage, tip your therapist
18 to 20 percent.
THEY MIGHT KNOW IF YOU NEED
MORE FIBER IN YOUR DIET
Your body gives clues about its state of health or disease,
and massage therapists can read these clues—a hard stomach, tight lower back
muscles, or knotted hamstrings—with their hands. “A therapist can often tell if
a client is constipated by working the intestinal area. I usually only do this
kind of work if specifically requested,” says Duren.
If you’re a nervous talker during a massage, don’t worry
about filling the silence. Some clients enjoy talking on the table, but others
prefer silence to savor the moment and fully relax. Whatever you choose, your
massage therapist will probably be fine either way, as long as your time on the
table is calming, soothing, and therapeutic.
THE BURNOUT RATE IS HIGH.
Three to five
years after graduation, the burnout rate for massage therapists has been estimated at
between 50 and 88 percent. Because they work on their feet, using their hands,
arms, and elbows to massage, therapists can get carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and
trigger finger. Even if massage therapists take breaks between massages,
repetitive stress injuries can make their jobs painful, contributing to a large
number of therapists who leave the field each year.
GOOD MASSAGE THERAPISTS ARE IN TUNE WITH YOUR
Norman, who teaches massage therapy at New York City’s Swedish Institute,tells Oprah Magazine that
good massage requires really tuning in. Comparing massage to meditation, she
explains that she clears her mind, focuses on being present, and connects to
her client’s body. No matter what area of the body she works on, Norman tries
to encourage her clients to let go and loosen up. “After you've worked on a lot
of bodies, you see with your hands. You don't see with your eyes anymore. I
don't need to look—my hands know,” she says.
THEY GET MASSAGES, TOO.
work is physical, massage therapists definitely get massages, too. Massage
therapist Julie Azzopardi admits that she trades massages with her colleagues at
the spa where she works and tries to get a massage once a week or once every
other week. Duren says she gets massages because she has to. “The work that I
do is intense and strenuous and I have to keep myself in good repair to offer
the kind of work I do to my clients,” she says. Dekunchak admits that she gets
regular massages, even at 9 months pregnant.