By Cathy Wong Fact checked by Ashley Hall Updated on May 23, 2020
Not knowing the proper etiquette when having a massage can cause moments of confusion. Do you tip a massage therapist? How much clothing should you remove? Whether you’re a massage newbie or have a specific question, here are the top questions you may be reluctant to ask.
Verywell / Lara Antal
Should I Tip?
Although a tip is never required, if your massage is at a spa or hotel in North America, a 20% tip is standard if you were pleased with the service. (The exception is all-inclusive spas that have a no-tip policy.) If you were given a gift certificate or purchased a deal through a discount site, a tip based on the original price is customary.
If the spa or clinic provides envelopes for tipping, place the money in the envelope and write the therapist’s full name on the envelope to avoid confusion. If a spa doesn’t provide envelopes, you can either give the therapist cash or add the tip when you are paying for the service.
If your massage is in a medical or clinical environment, tips may not be expected or even accepted. If you’re unsure, ask the clinic receptionist or massage therapist whether tipping is customary. If you don’t want to ask in person, call ahead to ask.
Note from Eyn On matter on tipping, it’s what keeps some LMTS going. So please be kind and tip.
Should Massage Hurt?
It’s a myth that any form of massage therapy (even deep tissue massage) must be painful to be effective. Pain during a massage isn’t a sure sign that the massage is helping. In fact, pain can cause muscles to seize up, making it harder for the massage therapist to ease tense areas.
Certain techniques, like trigger point therapy, usually cause soreness. Correcting a soft tissue problem (such as adhesions, tight attachments, and trigger points) can also cause some discomfort. However, if you don’t have a soft tissue condition, a massage shouldn’t cause soreness or pain.
Open communication with your massage therapist is key to a massage that meets your needs. If you have an injury or chronically tight or painful areas, be sure that your therapist is aware of it before the start of the session. If the pressure is too intense, tell your massage therapist immediately so he or she can ease up.
Note from Eyn On matter of pain. Ladies and gentlemen this isn’t true, if you want an intense Massage it may be painful. Now with that being said it’s up to you! On my table it’s your choice, and everyone at EynsMassage knows it’s our clients choice l! Some people want to be beat up, so we do so within reason of course. We cover soft soothing and deep deep tissue. So it should say it’s to you, at least it is at my establishment!
How Much Clothing Should I Remove?
Typically, a massage therapist will ask you to undress to your level of comfort. Many people prefer to keep their underwear on during a massage, while others prefer to be nude. It’s up to you.
Women usually remove their bras to allow the massage therapist to work on the back and shoulder area without getting massage oil or lotion on the bra.
If your problem area is your low back, hips, buttocks, or groin, tight-fitting or large underwear can sometimes get in the way of massage work. You can ask your massage therapist before getting changed.
In North America, if you do remove your underwear, licensed massage therapists must ensure that you are always properly covered by a sheet or towel.
The massage therapist will leave the room so that you can remove your clothing and lie on the massage table (usually face down) under the top sheet. In North America, you shouldn’t worry that the massage therapist will walk in on you; they should knock and ask if you are ready before entering the massage room.
How much clothing you remove also depends on the type of massage you’re getting. If you prefer keeping your clothes on, opt for massage styles like shiatsu or Thai massage, which are usually done fully clothed.
Note from Eyn On matter of clothing Look it’s also up to you, I’ve massaged a fully clothed people for religious reasons and otherwise. But keep in mind I can’t get to all areas you want done if you have all your clothes on. Underwear aren’t a problem unless it’s a joint or another reason, but I’d discuss it with your LMT if it’s an issue. Most won’t mind it either way, like it says your covered by a sheet or towel at all times.
What If I Feel Self-Conscious?
Being self-conscious shouldn’t keep you from seeking health care, whether it’s visiting your doctor or seeing a massage therapist. A professional massage therapist will be non-judgmental and focused on your muscles (and other soft tissue).
Still, some common concerns clients have are:
Having back acne
Believing they are overweight
Thinking they have ugly feet
Being self-conscious about scars
You can request that the massage therapist avoid certain areas. Or, you can look for a licensed massage therapist who uses a style of massage that can be done through clothing. No massage oil or lotion is used, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment.
If you didn’t have time to shave your legs, not to worry. Whether or not there is hair on your leg is of no concern to your massage therapist.
Note from Eyn On matter of being self conscience your here for a Massage, not a Beauty contest. We are more interested in your session.
Should I Make Conversation?
Although some people prefer to talk throughout the massage, don’t feel like you have to make conversation with the massage therapist. After all, you’re having a treatment; you’re not at a cocktail party.
Many people close their eyes and try to relax. Your massage therapist should take the cue from you.
Deep tissue massage and sports massage are just some of the types of massage that require more feedback. The massage therapist often works on deeper layers of muscle and will want to ensure that the pressure is comfortable.
Be sure to speak up during a massage if you:
Feel too hot or cold
Are in pain
Have any questions about the massage
Forgot to mention a health issue during the consultation
What If I Fall Asleep, Snore, or Drool?
Falling asleep during a massage is very common. Many people go into a massage stressed and sleep-deprived and feel so relaxed that they fall asleep on the massage table. Your therapist won’t judge you if you snore during the massage.
When you wake up, you may notice a little drool on your face or on the massage table. It’s common and has to do with your positioning on the massage table. You don’t have to do anything about it, but you should feel free to ask for a tissue.
Note from Eyn On matter of Conversation Again it’s up to you, except during special work like sports massage, deep tissue and others.
What If I Need the Restroom?
Going to the bathroom before the massage begins is ideal, but if you need to urinate during the massage, be sure to let the massage therapist know. Holding it for the duration of the massage isn’t comfortable or conducive to relaxing.
If it happens at a spa, there is usually a robe that you can slip on to walk out to the restroom. In a medical setting or clinic, you’ll likely have to put your clothes on to go.
Note from Eyn On matter bathroom breaks If you have to go, you have to go! It happens, your at some point in the session and all of the sudden you hear “I have to go bathroom” and we help you get to the bathroom the best we can.
What If I Get an Erection?
It’s normal for men to sometimes get an erection during a non-sexual, therapeutic massage. There’s no reason to be embarrassed if it happens to you. Gentle touch anywhere on the body can activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in an erection. A professional massage therapist will understand that and simply ignore it.
Note from Eyn On matter of Erection As long as your not expecting us to do anything, it happens. We don’t do sexual stuff in my Business, and it’s private so you’ll never hear us talk about it. It’s like a cramp, because it’s uncontrollable. I won’t say if it’s happened in my Business, just that it won’t be recognized in my Business.
What If I’m Ticklish?
Let your massage therapist know if you’re ticklish before your massage begins. Usually, firm, slow pressure (and avoiding certain spots) can keep you from feeling ticklish during a massage.
Note from Eyn On matter of Ticklish We know you are when you start wiggling, we will try to calm it down. And if it won’t stop we may ask if you want to skip that part. But if you don’t want an area ticklish or not let your LMT know.
What If I Need to Pass Gas?
From a massage therapist’s perspective, it is far better to pass gas during the massage (often a sign that you’re relaxed) than to clench your gluteal muscles during the massage to hold it in. Passing gas during a massage is normal and nothing to feel embarrassed about. If you’re really uncomfortable doing it, you can always excuse yourself to go to the bathroom.
Note from Eyn On matter of passing gas It happens more then you know, it’s not an issue and I may look for an aromatic item to clear the air.
How Do I Know If a Massage Clinic Is Legit?
If you’re trying a new clinic or spa, it’s a good idea to call first and ask these questions:
In N.Y. Where we are based in, we are licensed by the department of education under the office of professionals. You can look us up on there website, but if that’s not an option I would check with the state or country you are staying in. GoogIe point you in the right direction, and it does vary from states and countries.
I’d definitely ask these questions.
Do you offer therapeutic massage?
Is the massage therapist certified or licensed? Yes
Do you require a health questionnaire for your clients?
A licensed massage therapist will not come into contact with your genitals or nipples during the massage.
A Word From Verywell
Whether you’re a massage newbie or just have a specific question that you’ve been reluctant to ask, being observant can give you clues that may help answer certain questions.
You can also ask the clinic or spa receptionist your question. He or she likely answers many newbie questions on a regular basis and would be happy to answer yours so you can get the most out of your treatment.
If you’d like to take a look original article, it’s below.