8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting My First Massage

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What were you thinking, lying naked on the table without pulling the sheet up? That's what I asked myself as I walked out of my first massage recently. It wasn't until I got to work the next day and told my coworkers about my appointment that I realized there was a whole lot more I should have known before going in.

I'm 22 and suffer from chronic back pain, so most people are surprised to find out I'd never had a massage. But I was always convinced they’d be too soft to remedy any soreness I was experiencing, so I got by on Icy Hot patches. Eventually, I was fed up with my back issues and bad posture, so I jumped at the opportunity to visit Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa, hoping it'd be my saving grace.

Now, I'm no spa newbie — I've gotten facials before, sat in steam rooms, paid too much for fancy pedicures — but a massage was foreign territory. I was Cady Heron on the first day of school, completely lost throughout the service. By the end of the hour-long appointment, I was loose-limbed and relaxed, but slightly embarrassed by how unprepared I was.

To ensure you never get stuck frantically texting your roommate about whether or not to go commando, I asked Christian Davies, spa director at La Prairie at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, everything you need to know before your first treatment.
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I assumed I had to be completely naked, but that's not the case. The whole experience is about total-body relaxation, so if keeping on your underwear makes you feel more comfortable, go for it. If you're partial to your birthday suit, by all means, strip down.

Davies says that most people prefer to be naked, since 80% of your body is covered and wrapped in sheets or towels. Some spas do offer disposable garments, Davies says, so if you’re a faux-tanning pro, you’ll be familiar.
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Oil is necessary during a massage to reduce friction, but I didn't realize just how much would be used. Next time, I'm bringing along a travel-sized pack of cleansing towelettes to wipe off my makeup before (or else mascara gets everywhere) and wipe the oil off after.
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You’re going to be drained after the massage. Chiropractor appointments tend to boost your energy, but massages put you to sleep. Add in aromatherapy, soothing music, and a dimly lit room, and it’s game over. Expect to be sleepy, oily, and probably not looking the way you want to look for a date when it's all over.
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Davies says that chatting before and during your massage is normal and up to the client. If something feels uncomfortable, say something. “Therapists should be checking in with you a minimum of two times to confirm the service is to your satisfaction. It’s your massage and it should be catered to your preferences. Some [people] look for relaxation and prefer a lighter form of massage, while others look to have particular conditions addressed, which may require much more pressure or a longer focus on specific areas. It’s okay for your massage to be all about you!” he says.
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Repeat after me: Erections of all varieties happen — and they're completely normal. Let your nipples do their thing; sometimes, even light stimulation from a sheet shifting as you roll over is enough to perk things up. Your therapist couldn't care less.
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It’s a widespread belief that gulping down water after a massage is crucial. Why? A lot of people speculate that harmful toxins are being released and should be flushed out ASAP. While it's a nice thought — that your massage is working some major draining magic — it’s most likely not true.

Dr. Adam Perlman, the executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, NC, tells the New York Times that it’s possible that there is an increase in the removal of lactic acid, lymphatic drainage, and things like that, but none of it is considered “toxic.” Still, Dr. Perlman agrees that drinking water and staying hydrated is never a bad thing, so head to the cucumber-water station and fill up.
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Don’t expect to get up from the massage bed with perfect, lived-in texture or a bouncy blowout. Your hair will be flat and greasy, but that's the price you pay for a nice scalp rub.
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Consider skipping alcohol after your massage. If you’re normally a lightweight, a post-massage drink will feel like the first time you ever sipped a beer. Why? Davies says it’s because massages increase circulation throughout your whole body, which could lead to alcohol having a stronger effect than it normally does. A few sips won't hurt, but it's a good idea to take a break for the evening.
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