What Should You Expect?
A massage session can run from 60 – 90 minutes, depending how much you want to spend. You don’t need any special preparation. Just wear some loose fitting clothing — it makes it easier to get undressed, and you can undress to the extent to which you feel comfortable. Your therapist will probably rub oil or lotion on your body to reduce friction, so let them know if you have any allergies to ingredients.
Before your session begins, your therapist should ask you if you have any specific concerns, and what you’re hoping to get out of massage. While you’re getting worked over, communicate with your therapist. Let them know if you want more or less pressure, and whether you want certain parts worked and not worked. If you have a muscle that feels like a knot, you may feel some discomfort as your therapist works it out.
Now, not all therapists are created equal. When you set up your appointment, make sure the therapist is licensed or certified (most states regulate massage therapists). You may also want to ask your doctor for a recommendation. Still, there’s likely to be some trial and error to find the therapist and massage technique that’s right for you.
As with any form of physical therapy — massage is exactly that — you can’t go once every few months. To get rid of chronic stress, you need to commit to once every 1-2 weeks at least initially. If you schedule your massages farther apart than that, your muscles may revert back to their old patterns and so you have to start all over again.
Once you’re feeling more relaxed and less stressed, a maintenance program of about once a month is recommended.
And How Much?
As I said, they’re not cheap. But you don’t have to go to a full-service spa and spend between $200 – $500. There are chains, such as Massage Envy, where you can get a good massage for under $70 per hour. Of course, that’s without the tip — expect to add about 15% – 20% to that price.
You can also find independent therapists who either have their own studio or will come to your home — a search on the internet will give you plenty of options. Somewhere around $75 per hour is typical for independent practitioners, but you’re not expected to tip these folks.
If you have incredibly good coverage, you might be able to get your health insurance company to pick up part of the tab. That’s certainly worth looking into, but keep in mind that even if your insurer covers massages, you’ll need proof from your primary care doctor that it’s medically necessary.