Know Which Kind of Massage You Want and How to Get the Most Out of It

This picture is an accurate portrayal of how I usually feel after a massage: like I’m being cuddled in a warm, peaceful womb-like environment.

Let me start by saying that my father is a certified masseur, and he provided much of the knowledge shared in this blog entry. In fact, I called him earlier to approve this writing.

I’ve definitely been getting a steady amount of free massages from Papa Lu over the years, but I still willingly shell out money to go to other spas and massage therapists often because well, I also enjoy the kind of massages where you strip down naked and lie under sheets. I LOVE MASSAGES, and I want to share that with you.

For those of you concerned about the nudity, please don’t worry. All places that ask you to remove your clothing will let you lie facedown under some sheets in an empty room first, then the masseur will return when you’re ready. And during the session, he or she will position and tuck in the sheets in various ways so that nothing indecent is showing. It’s kind of like a funny dance. Anyway, moving on.

First and foremost, decide what type of massage you’d like. According to my slightly biased father, the ancient Chinese invented massage (and almost everything else) back in the day, and then other countries in Asia came over, learned the techniques, and adapted them to their own liking. The Westerners developed their own styles though but the principles are the same…And that is a very brief generalized history of massage! If someone wants to do a full detailed research, by all means. Below are the most common types of full-body massages:

1. Traditional Chinese Massage: Incorporating the pressure points so important in Traditional Chinese Medicine, “Tui Na” will knead, push, pinch, and stretch you. If it hurts a lot when someone puts pressure on a certain pressure point, that means there’s something really wrong with that part of your body the particular pressure point corresponds to, and the pressure is releasing the pain. If you’re healthy in that area, then the only pressure you’d feel is just the plain force put into it. You usually don’t need to take your clothes off at all for this. Just wear loose clothing. This according to my dad is the best kind of massage because it is the origin of all others.

2. Thai Massage: My dad’s theory is that because Thai people are historically petite and don’t have enough strength, they invented the technique of walking on people’s backs and using elbows on the patient’s body. Usually the ceiling of the room will have special bars for the masseuse to grab on to so they won’t slip. In addition, they will fold and arrange you into various yoga positions to help stretch and release tension. This kind might not bring you much relief during the session, but you’ll feel much better afterwards. My dad does not recommend this style for first-timers.

3. Shiatsu/Japanese Massage: A traditional Japanese home doesn’t have chairs- you just kneel on the cushions laid out on the tatami mat floor. Naturally most Japanese massage places will have you lying on the floor instead of on an elevated surface of some sort. Because of this, the Shiatsu relies much on using the palm and fingers on the pressure points since it’s hard to use force otherwise while sitting on the floor.

4. European/Swedish/Aromatherapy Massage: This type of massage utilizes lotion or fragrant essential oils and you’re most definitely encouraged to get as naked as possible. There are lot of comforting long strokes and less motions that make you yelp out loud.

5. American/Deep-Tissue/Sports Massage: This style focuses on pressure for a sustained amount of time to get to the muscles underneath your skin. The pain is likely to last a whole day after the massage but it’s for the best.

6. Hot Stone Massage: Basically heating up smooth stones of various sizes to put on different pressure points while you lie down. Needless to say, my dad thinks this is a cop-out. It’s good for relaxation and stimulating blood flow, but the benefits are not as much as the other styles. However, this one is good though if you don’t like someone actually touching you. This also might be good if you have never ever received a professional massage before.

Of course sometimes the person may combine several different styles to your needs. Other factors might come into consideration.

Chair vs. Table vs. the Floor: Massages on different objects use the same techniques but the fact is that the masseur can more easily apply pressure if you’re lying down since he or she can use their body weight and gravity to their advantages.

Facial/Head Massage vs. Foot Massage vs. Full-Body: Facial and head massages can pretty much only treat those areas being touched. This is good if you have a headache or tired eyes, or want a quick beauty fix. Foot massage is good of course if you have trouble in your lower body but also it’s good if you have certain areas in your torso or legs that are so hurt or inflamed that they cannot be touched. The bottom of your feet contain many pressure points that are connected to the other parts of your body, including internal organs. Full-body is all encompassing.

Now that you know what kind of massage you want, here are some things to keep in mind.

Way before the massage:

  • If you want a massage for healing purposes, the best time to get it is right when you start to feel unwell or strained somewhere. Do not wait until you’re experiencing full-swing symptoms of an illness or a physical problem. Plus whatever you have might be contagious and you could get the masseur sick, and that’s just mean. Acupuncture or fire cupping are great alternative options if you’re sick already.
  • If you have something wrong with your joints, consider going to the chiropractor instead. Massaging a spine with problems is a bad idea.

At the massage location or when booking the appointment:

  • When picking the person, do be superficial and judge them by their appearance. If you know you like lighter pressure, by all means, pick a smaller person. Vice versa– if you like heavier pressure, pick a bigger person.
  • Remember that it is your choice to ask for a male or a female.
  • It is totally within your rights to ask how much experience, what kind of training, and which certifications the employee has. And you should make your choice based on the answers. You are paying for their service after all.
  • Ladies, if you’re pregnant, please look for special pre-natal offerings. If you’re not, take your menstrual cycles into consideration because cramps, bloating, or extra sensitivity from hormonal changes are not fun to deal with during massages.

The day of the massage:

  • If you are going to eat before the massage, plan at least a full hour ahead for your food to digest. I also recommend to be really hydrated.
  • Arrive early so you can fill out some paperwork and get undressed. Also this way you won’t feel rushed.
  • Go the bathroom right before the massage. Seriously.
  • Do NOT be shy to tell the masseuse ALL about your medical history, what prescriptions you’re on, any physical or internal problems like allergies you have, any symptoms, etc. You should even tell them what kind of exercises you do, or what kind of repeated motions you at your job or hobbies. Trust me, you would rather overshare than be sorry later.
  • If you don’t like to be touched or you’re extra sensitive in certain areas for any reason, just say so.
  • For the ladies, do not put on heavy make up. And be prepared that your hair will most likely get messed up a bit, too. And if you have silicon implants in your breasts, be honest and tell; otherwise you might damage the work you paid a lot of the money for (I’m not joking at all. Papa Lu says it could get ugly).

During the massage:

  • Take slow and deep breaths, and relax every single part of your body. Do not clench or flex anything. If you want to chat, go ahead, but it’s also okay to not talk and doze off. They know what to do even if you fall asleep.
  • Think of it as if you’re getting a haircut. They ask you what you like and what you want at the beginning, but you’re also entitled to tell them instant feedback during the process. For instance, if the pressure is too light or too hard, just voice your opinion nicely. If the light is too bright, then ask to dim it a bit. If you feel too warm or too cold, let it be heard.

After the massage:

  • Drink lots and lots of water. Preferable room temperature or lukewarm. A massage is like a workout for your body except you didn’t initiate anything.
  • Do not do anything physically demanding for at least a couple of hours.
  • You might feel a bit of soreness or pain in some areas for a day or two. This is normal.

For me a good massage should be half relaxing and half painful- hurts in a good way, of course. I know that a lot of people think massage therapy is bullshit and a waste of money. Trust me, I used to be a skeptic, too, but if you go to the right place and the right person, the benefits are endless: invigoration, releasing physical and psychological stress, help you sleep better, improve your athletic performance, increased blood flow so you look nicer and younger, etc.

Honestly, I feel bad for anyone who has not experienced a good massage. They’re missing out on some pure bliss.

What are you waiting for?


P.S. Yes, let’s not talk about the fact that I hadn’t blogged in two months. Been busy, man! Slash, I am really sorry.


3 responses

  1. Pingback: It’s OK If You Can’t Dance Like Usher in Hip Hop Class | Daily Chin Ups by Chin Lu

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