But for those of you who are just looking for a nice, perfectly innocent, legal, and in no way rage inducing way to relax, massage is the way to go. That said, there are a few things you should be prepared for before getting that first massage. Things such as...
1. I CAN MAKE YOU FART LIKE A GODDAMN MACHINE GUN
I once had a client come in for a deep tissue massage who must have eaten a very big, extremely gassy meal right before climbing onto my table because he broke wind throughout the entire session. The ENTIRE session. These weren't polite little poofs of butt-wind either. I'm talking about rapid fire farting that tested the sound proofing of the walls, not to mention the limitations of the spa's ventilation system. When the massage was over and my client had dressed and met me outside, the first thing he said before walking unabashedly away was, "Sorry about busting a hole in your table."
|You don't want to know what he left me for the tip.|
This wasn't the first time a client had ripped one out on my table, and it certainly wasn't the last, but it was the first time someone was so blasé about the whole thing. Usually when it happens, I know ahead of time something is up because their stomach rumbles like a volcano ready to blow, and they clench up all over trying desperately to hold it in for as long as possible, totally defeating the purpose of the massage. Most people don't realize the effects a massage has on the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. When your body relaxes, it goes out of "fight or flight" mode (sympathetic) and into "relaxation" mode (parasympathetic), giving the digestive system the opportunity to do its job. A good massage therapist realizes this, has probably been trained to expect this, so don't feel bad if your ass just can't keep its secrets to itself. Your therapist has heard it all before. And as for the smell, that's what aromatherapy oils are for.
2. IF YOU'RE A GUY, YOU MIGHT GET AN ERECTION
Picture it: You're a guy. You've been working out hard at the gym, and your muscles are in agony. Or you have boss-induced stress no amount of karaoke can cure. Or your significant other surprises you with a gift certificate for a couples massage that you just have to accept for fear of hurt feelings and an uncomfortable night on the couch. Reluctant or not, you find yourself lying on a massage table getting rubbed down, thinking, "Hey, this is pretty relaxing! I don't know why I never thought to get a massage before." when all of a sudden, the unthinkable happens. No, it's not flatulence. It's Mr. Happy, and he's just popped up to say hello. There's a sheet and blanket between you and impropriety, but even so, it's pretty damn obvious that your manhood has a mind of its own and is dead set on making what was supposed to be a relaxing massage into a nightmare of immense proportions...pardon the pun.
God only knows what the massage therapist is thinking. Has she seen it? She hasn't run out of the room screaming, so maybe she hasn't noticed yet. If your therapist is a guy and you're straight as an arrow-again, with the penis puns...sorry-you begin to question your own sexual orientation. If your therapist is a woman and you're gayer than a unicorn pissing rainbows, you might also question your sexual orientation, but you'll dismiss this notion immediately because no man can feel the way you do about Zachary Quinto and be an honest to God, straight up heterosexual.
In a desperate bid to deflate the offending appendage, you flood your mind with every nonsexual image you can think of, up to and including dead kittens. This, of course, doesn't work.
|Because your imagination hates you.|
If you're thinking, "Why me, dear God? Why me?!?!" you'll be happy to know, it isn't just you, and it doesn't happen all the time. This goes back to what I said earlier about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Certain massage strokes can stimulate the SNS instead of relaxing it, and massage naturally causes increased blood flow to certain areas of the body. This might cause an unintended reaction if the therapist is working the inner thigh area, the abdomen, or pretty much anywhere close to the groin area.
And you would be right to worry about what the massage therapist is thinking since the very nature of our work has a tendency to attract losers looking for services not within the limits of our professional code of ethics. This is more of a problem with new massage therapists who haven't been in the business long enough to distinguish the embarrassed clients from the ones hoping for happy ending. Therapists with a couple of years under their belt can usually spot the difference and are knowledgeable enough to know when to work on another part of the body until the client has physically calmed down.
The best way to deal with this eventuality is by being upfront with your therapist about your intentions. Tell them you don't mean any disrespect, keep your hands to yourself, and maybe ask for an extra blanket. You can try thinking about dead kittens or nuns too, but if you're resorting to that, you might as well end the massage because you're never going to get relaxed enough to enjoy it. I hear that rarely ever works, anyway.
|"God damn it, imagination! Why do you thwart me at every turn?"|
3. YOU MIGHT SOB LIKE A BABY FOR NO APPARENT REASON
If accidental flatulence and erectile malfunctioning isn't bad enough, another thing that can happen while receiving a massage is something those of us in the biz call "emotional release". This is when a client starts crying or laughing for no discernible reason. This has never happened to me personally, neither as a massage therapist, nor as a receiver of massage, but I hear it's more common than you think, and can be a little scary for everyone involved if neither party is prepared for it.
Sometimes these reactions can be explained easily enough. There are certain clients that are of the No Pain No Gain school of thought, the ones that are reluctant to tell their therapist when the pressure is too much or to go easy around ultra sensitive areas. Their thinking behind this is that if the therapist isn't causing them to cry like a baby and scream for uncle, the massage isn't doing them any good. Which is the exact opposite of the truth, but try telling them that.
|I don't know what kind of massage you think I do, sir, but...no.|
Then there are those unlucky bastards that are ticklish to the point of not being able to be touched without the therapist feeling like they have a laugh track following every effleurage. I once worked on a guy who was especially ticklish on the backs of his legs. This was a bit of drawback considering his biggest complaint required me to focus on his hamstrings. I solved the problem by working on him over the blanket doing compressions.
Emotional release is different. Sometimes, when a client has experienced trauma, whether physical or emotional, massage can bring it out through crying or laughter. In the case of physical trauma (injury or abuse), being touched could bring back memories of things buried, revealing feelings long ignored. This isn't just the case for those who have suffered sexual or physical abuse. An instructor of mine once told me a story about a client who burst into tears while she was working on her arm. The client said she wasn't in pain and urged her to continue the massage. After the session was over, she admitted that her arm was injured in the same car accident that killed her friend. It had been years since she had talked or even thought about the incident, but having someone touch the area brought back memories. If you've been stressing over something for years, having your shoulders kneaded for a few minutes could be all it takes to make the tears start flowing.
If this happens to you and your therapist is any good, she or he will stop the massage, hand you a tissue, gently ask if you want to continue the massage, and offer you a shoulder to cry on if you need it. We can't give advice or psychoanalyze, but we can be there for you, and sometimes, that's all you really need.
4. I CAN INDUCE EARLY LABOR...MAYBE
This one is open for debate. When I was a student, I was told to never under any circumstances work on a client who is in their first trimester of pregnancy as they are most likely to miscarry during this time and that massaging the abdomen could accidentally dislodge the placenta. I was also told there were certain areas on the body such as around the ankles and wrists that must be avoided completely during prenatal massage or risk sending the client into early labor. After I became certified, I took prenatal massage as my first continuing education course. When asked if any of the stuff they told me in school was true, my prenatal instructor informed me that while she considered it to be complete bullshit, she was smart enough to know that some people become sue-happy when they lose a baby, and that it was best to cover my ass.
Quite a few of my pregnant clients have requested I give them the "labor inducing" massage. These are the women who are one to two weeks past their due date and are a hair's breadth from killing their husbands for putting them in this position in the first place.
|"I don't care if you use exorcism as a modality. Just get this thing out of me NOW!"|
I tell them what my prenatal instructor told me, that I can't do it for insurance reasons. I make it a point to tell them where the points on the feet and hands are located, however, so their significant other can work on them at their own discretion, reminding them that while it may or may not work, at the very least they get a free foot massage out of the deal. How can you beat that?
5. I CAN MAKE YOU SICK OFF YOUR ASS.
I hear a common complaint among clients: "The last massage I had was great, but I was sick as a dog after! What the hell, man?"
There are a number of reasons why illness after a massage can occur, the most common being dehydration. Any massage therapist worth their salt will tell you to drink plenty water after the massage. The reason for this is that massage stirs up a lot of lactic acid and toxins and you need to flush that crap out of your system. Drinking water is the only way to do that. A good rule of thumb is to drink twice as much water as you're used to drinking in a day-more if you're a caffeine junky like me.
|I can quit any time I want...Oooh! Is that French-vanilla mocha chino? Gimme!|
Another reason might be that you were sick before you got the massage but weren't showing symptoms. Or you were a total douche, knew you were sick, and decided to keep your appointment anyway. For those of you in the first group, it's an unfortunate side effect of most massages that promote circulation of the blood such as Swedish and deep tissue. Increased circulation makes the sickness go through your system faster than it normally would. They say you'll get over it faster, but you'll wish for death before you're through, so I hope you have some sick days tucked away. You're going to need them.
For those of you in the second group, the ones who knew you were sick and came to me anyway, came to me with your oh-so-contagious cold germs that will take weeks for me to get over and will probably be spread to my other clients, please read item number 2 of the blog article I previously mentioned in the introduction. Replace the word "scabies" with "cold germs" and "the mother fucking flu virus" and feel free to walk onto a busy freeway without looking both ways. That feeling you get when that 18-wheeler hits you full force will give you some inkling of how me and the rest of my clientele feel when we all come down with your illness with the added bonus of giving your unknowing victims some feeling of a fair and just universe.