Massage Uncovered: Session Etiquette

If you are new to massage or an old pro sometimes there are questions you may have not asked pertaining to your therapy sessions.

This post will cover (or uncover) simple massage etiquette between patient and therapist.

What do I get for my “hour” session?

Your session starts at the agreed upon time at which point you will be, at the very least, met by your therapist.  Intake and undressing to get on the table are usually part of this time.  If you are running late it is often likely your therapist has another appointment after and cannot make up the extra time for you.  While many therapists will end and complete their interaction with you dressed and out the door at the end of your session time, Toronto Bodyworks’ therapists have their hands on until the end of the session time.  They may have a few minutes after to make any recommendations and see you off.

Should I wear my underwear?

It’s really up to you how much clothing you would like to remove.  It sometimes happens that people wear all or most of their clothes.  Some types of bodywork require this such as Thai or Shiatsu.  Some people prefer to wear nothing at all.  Massage therapists can better access certain areas like the gluteal region which can help with low back pain if there is no undergarment.  It is perfectly natural to discuss this with your therapist before getting on the table and may even be a request by your therapist when discussing the session beforehand.

Should I talk?

Everyone unwinds in their own way.  Some patients need to talk to drop their stress and others need to zone out.  Your massage therapist should be mindful of allowing you to gauge the level of chatty during the massage.  If your therapist is engaging you it is likely they want to establish a connection.  If you need quiet time and your therapist has not picked up on this a simple request can go a long way to allowing you to get what you need from the time you have invested in on the table.  Your therapist should understand, don’t worry about putting them off.  It’s a common preference.

I don’t like the music playing or sometimes I just need quiet.  Is it rude to ask?

Most massage therapists naturally tune the music out so it’s fine to ask for a request or silence.  I have a patient that comes in the early morning and prefers 1980’s Top Hits – it’s an upbeat and fun way to start her day while we are putting her body into better alignment.  As massage therapists we are trained to tailor sessions for optimal outcome, it’s completely fine to ask for better listening.

I was really uncomfortable from lying in one position for awhile, is this necessary?

Anytime, and I mean anytime you could be more comfortable let your therapist know.  I’d rather you ask me 30 times to adjust a pillow, the face cradle, etc… than  to suffer through.  There are so many options to positioning, it’s better to be comfortable and your therapist should be fine with any such request.

I prefer the pressure to be deeper or lighter than what the therapist is providing.  What’s the right thing to say?

At Toronto Bodyworks it is a requirement for the therapist to be comfortable with providing deep work.  So if you need deeper work just ask “Can you go a little deeper?”.  If the therapist is a bit too heavy handed or you don’t like a particular technique it’s important to speak up.  Only you live in your body and while we can feel a lot of information from your body we can’t know everything.  Too much is not always better.  If you feel yourself tensing against the pressure it’s fine to ask your therapist if they can “back off a bit”.  No pain no gain is not always the case with bodywork.  Communication with your therapist is key.


Tips are commonplace for massage, especially in spas.  In Ontario we are regulated by the same Government Health Act as Doctors and Dentists whom we conventionally do not tip.  It is not expected that you tip your massage therapist either.  Some patients still like to show their appreciation through a gratuity which is always a kind gesture, just never expected.  You will receive the same level of excellence in care whether you choose to tip your therapist or not.

The best part of your experience with massage is coming out feeling better than when you went in.  Find your comfort zone, communicate if need and allow the work to take place.  I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

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