Life is better when you’re loosened up. Stress goes down, pain goes away, and stiff joints become more mobile. You’re so down to treat yourself to a massage, but kind of apprehensive about where to start. No need to worry, Lunes Lionessa in Chicago and Michele Sabia in the New York area—two top-rated Thumbtack pros—help you navigate the 9 things you need to know about hiring a massage therapist.
1. What are realistic rates for a massage therapist?
Prices range depending on whether the massage is in a studio, spa, or the therapist travels to clients’ homes. A realistic rate is about $1 per minute of massage, plus traveling expenses. Lunes and Michele both agree that if your therapist provides additional therapies—such as aromatherapy with hot towels, paraffin treatments for arthritis, sugar scrubs, etc.—you can expect the price to change. Be sure to confirm fees prior to booking so there are no surprises at the end when you’re all blissed out.
2. Are there any questions someone should ask before booking?
Ask if the therapist is currently licensed, recommends Lunes. Michele chimes in that you should also ask about their experience, and if they specialize in your area of need or the kind of massage you want.
3. Do massage therapists need special certification to practice?
Most states now require massage therapists to be licensed or certified. Michele shares that if a state requires a therapist to be licensed they generally require the therapist to take a certain amount of continuing education classes before renewing their licenses. She recommends not assuming someone is licensed and instead confirming with them prior to booking. As per continuing education, Lunes says if you have a special need, look for a therapist who has special training in Geriatric, Prenatal, Sports, Infant, etc., to make sure you have the best fit for the massage you need.
4. What can someone expect at their first professional massage?
There will be a brief intake wherein the client answers questions about the type of massage they’d like to receive, previous massage experiences, the type of pressure they prefer during the massage (light, medium, or deep), and if they have any injuries or sensitivities.
Based on the type of massage and any injuries being addressed, Michele explains to her clients how they should start sitting or lying on the table. She wants any newcomers to massage to know that, first and foremost, clients should feel comfortable and respected by their therapist.
5. What is the protocol around nudity?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be naked! Even if you want to be naked, you’ll still be draped.
Michele explains that licensed therapists are required to drape their clients. Draping is the act of covering the client with a sheet anywhere a swimsuit would cover. The therapist maintains the sheet’s position for client privacy during the massage.
She clarifies that clients may wear anything (underwear, shorts, bathing suit) they like under the drape, or nothing at all. She explains protocol to the client, then excuses herself from the room to allow her client the privacy to undress to their comfort level, and then position themselves on the table.
Lunes confirms that all clients must be properly draped. She also hopes people know that massage therapists are professionals and to be respectful of that by saving undraped nudity for your special someone.
6. Is there a difference between a house call and going to a studio?
It depends on what you are after! At a studio, Lunes says the therapist will have more resources at her disposal, such as hot stones, hydrotherapy, etc. On the other hand, a house call provides you the convenience of having therapy and relaxation come and knock on your door. Afterwards, you can curl up in your bathrobe and watch silly movies. Matter of fact, it might be time for a massage for all of us.
7. What type of massage do you offer, and what do you recommend it for?
Lunes offers a wide ranges of styles from prenatal massage to geriatric massage. She also does chair events and church retreats…A good reminder to you to think outside of the box when planning entertainment for that corporate event or family reunion! Everyone loves massage.
Michele offers Swedish massage which focuses on light to medium pressure. She also provides deep tissue massage, which really works into the muscles, and sports massage which is fabulous for post-workout recovery.
When booking a massage, explain to the therapist what you hope to achieve. They will know what type of massage will best cure what ails you!
8. What do you suggest for people who have illnesses or injury?
Definitely talk to your doctor, says Lunes. If you have doctor’s clearance, Michele recommends consulting with the therapist to learn if they have worked with your type of illness or injury before. For example, she says if you are a cancer patient, find a massage therapist who has experience working with the unique needs you might experience.
9. Is there anything you wish clients knew before booking a massage?
Michele wants clients to know that massage therapists are professionals and that clients should expect to treat them as such. She also urges you to speak up, ask as many questions as you like, let your therapist know if something hurts, and if you want different pressure. It’s all about communication! Lunes wants clients to have great results and reminds everyone that if a service is cheaper, it may not have the same quality or experience you want.