Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask a Massage Therapist

Answers to all your questions about massages, waxing, facials, and more.
Indy Massage Co._woman using oil for body massage_Indy Maven

This post is presented in partnership with Indy Massage Company.

Have you ever been to get a massage and realized you actually had no idea what to do but were too afraid to ask? We know the feeling, so we had April Emmons — co-owner of Indy Massage Company — give us all the answers we’ve been dying to know. After all, everyone deserves a relaxing massage, and a lack of massage etiquette knowledge should be the last thing keeping you from booking one.

What’s the deal with underwear — should it be left on or taken off?

We leave that totally up to the client! When the massage therapist comes into the room, we do a verbal consult with them. If your therapist would like you to keep them on, they will tell you. I personally like them off, just because I have been doing this 10 years, and the muscle in the glute is a big muscle. So I want to be able to work that! If somebody is not comfortable taking their underwear off, then we just work over the sheet.

What if I forgot to shave my legs before the appointment?

I work on guys that are covered with hair. So if a girl has a little stubble, no big deal.

What happens if I get a little too relaxed and fall asleep during the massage?

Happens all the time! I welcome that because that means somebody is really trusting you to fall asleep in your presence. And, they’re completely relaxed — if they’re falling asleep, they need to be asleep.

There are so many massage services to choose from, and they all sound amazing. What kind would you recommend for a first-timer?

I would say Swedish massage. All of our therapists here could tailor and customize the session to how the client needs it to be. Swedish starts off with your basic medium pressure for relaxation and then goes up from there. The client can tell the therapist during the session if they would like it deeper, or they could wait till their next session and go to deep tissue or cupping or any of the other modalities.

So, cupping — what is it? How does it work?

There are about eight of us here that do cupping. Chinese medicine came up with that long ago. It’s the opposite of what a massage is going to do as far as pressure. Massage is positive pressure and the cup is negative pressure, so it has the same effects as a deep tissue massage, but it’s doing the opposite negative pressure. It helps with circulation, helps with movement. I personally put my cups on myself without even getting a massage. It has cured certain things — when you have a kink in your neck, and you put some cups there, within 20 minutes or so my neck can move again. So, it’s pretty amazing!

What should I expect during my massage session?

I like to know the expectations of the client. If they had an injury, I want to make sure that I’m focusing a lot on that injury. I want them to feel better when they leave than they felt when they walked into my room. So they’re coming in for a basic Swedish massage and don’t have any injuries, I would think they should expect to relax. They could maybe fall asleep. 

How do prenatal massages differ from traditional massage services? Does the baby benefit, too?

If the momma is relaxed, then the baby will be relaxed. With prenatal massages, they are a tad bit different. We think of them as like a Swedish massage just for relaxation. If the mom has been doing massage for a long time, you can do a little bit more pressure in certain areas. Mostly, prenatals are going to lay on their side with a body pillow. We do have an insert here that goes on top of the regular massage table. It has cutouts for a belly and a chest. It’s super comfortable, where they can lay face down if they have a big belly and they haven’t been on their stomach for a long time. So moms like that, too.

What makes getting a facial different from just buying a face mask at the store?

Our product line was originally designed for physicians, so it’s a higher level of product. Our retail is the same as our professional products. We’re going to clean the skin, we’re going to do extractions, and then we’re going to use all the products that we can to improve your skin. Really, the most important thing is your at-home protocol. If I see you every six weeks, that’s going to help you, but you’re gonna have to keep it up at home. You know what I’m saying?

What do I do to prepare for a wax — and is it really as painful as it looks?

It depends on the area, I think. It’s really subjective. Waxing a face, to me, is not painful at all. When you get down to the bikini area, or Brazilian, it is a little bit more painful, I think. You want to let the hair grow out just a couple of millimeters and do some exfoliation maybe two or three days before you come in. Afterward, you don’t want to do any shaving or anything like that — you want to wait. Usually, it lasts up to four weeks when you do a wax, like leg wax, or arm wax, or bikini. Just making sure you’re clean when you come in and have a little bit of hair is the most important thing.

Can I wear a mask during my appointment? Are there any COVID protocols I should follow to stay safe?

We’ve always sanitized very well after each session, so that’s really nothing new to us. If a client is comfortable with the mask, then we welcome that.

How much should I tip my massage therapist? 

Typically, it’s 20%, but it’s really based on the performance during the session. Sometimes people tip more if somebody goes above and beyond.

Katie Freeman is Indy Maven’s editorial intern.

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