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Many people have a moment of awkwardness when they have a massage. For some, it's not knowing whether to get completely undressed or keep their underwear on. Or it's waking during the massage to find you've drooled on the massage table. Or it's wondering if you should tip. Or for men, it's worrying that you'll get an erection.

For a friend of mine, a massage neophyte who had moved to a new city, it was wondering whether the place she had been going to was really a sensual massage parlor (I was tipped off when she told me they hadn't given her any kind of form to fill out and that the masseuse wore high heels during the session).

So here are the answers to 10 massage questions that you want to know, but are too embarrassed to ask.

Do you have an embarrassing massage situation? Or are you a massage therapist who can give us suggestions on how to handle them? Share your knowledge, tips, questions, and experiences below in the comments so we can all learn.

Poll: What's your most embarrassing massage question?
photo credit: © JupiterImages Corporation
April 18, 2006 at 11:42 am
(1) Paul says:

I am extremely ticklish, and the lightest touch can set me off so, I am not sure what deep massage would do to me. I would like a massage that goes beyond my head and shoulders. Your thoughts?

April 18, 2006 at 1:16 pm
(2) altmedicine says:

Hi Paul, If you tell the massage therapist you’re ticklish, she/he will usually apply fairly firm pressure and avoid particularly ticklish areas.

April 18, 2006 at 1:45 pm
(3) Rick says:

Massages are great!!! Tip what you want!
Just relax and share your thoughts/feelings with your Masseuse!
I give great ones too!! Been told I have great hands!:)

Seeking New Models to represent;see my Link!


April 18, 2006 at 2:29 pm
(4) teacher says:

I fell in love with the therapist! It was hard not show…

April 18, 2006 at 4:01 pm
(5) Michelle says:

Any well educated therapist would answer any and all of these ‘embarassing’ questions before the massage even started. It is called “consent to treat”, which means asking for your permission.

In the consent to treat, you should be informed of: a) what your treatment will consist of i.e. body parts, goals, how long, the cost etc.
b) what your options are for removal of clothing and draping/ covering during the massage
c) that you have the right to ask the therapist to alter their pressure at any time
d) risks and benefits of the treatment
e) that you should feel free to ask questions at any time and that you may stop the massage at any time.
It is your massage. and your body. Remember that.
Enjoy your massage!

April 18, 2006 at 6:22 pm
(6) Willow says:

I love having a massage but my problem is that sometimes while the person is massaging my upper body, shoulders & neck, it will release my tension and I begin to cry silently with big crocodile tears. I end up apologizing even though I have been assured that it sometimes happens…

April 19, 2006 at 8:20 pm


April 21, 2006 at 2:27 am
(8) Another Licensed Therapist says:

Tipping is never required – but is gratefully received. Often people will tip $5 to $10 – more if they REALLY enjoyed the massage or got a lot of benefit from it (i.e., the low back pain they’ve lived with for the past forty years is now gone…)

It is never necessary to undress at all for a massage – only to your level of comfort – a good therapist will work within your boundaries and keep you feeling safe. Most people like to undress completely as they feel they get a more complete massage that way, but clothes can be worked through or around – and underwear is the most common thing left on. Professional massage therapists are used to either equally.

Ticklishness can be worked through most of the time by having the therapist use a broad surface (like the palm of the hand instead of fingertips), more pressure with slower movement, possibly working through a sheet or towel – or even having the client touch the therapist’s hand while working (try it – it takes the tickles out!)

As far as drooling, rumblings and various other sounds – they are signs of relaxation and are generally considered to be compliments to the therapist – I know it’s hard to not be embarrassed, but please know that these things are so ordinary as to be very hard to avoid while truly relaxing, and they really don’t bother us at all!

Erections are natural, though a legitimate massage therapist will not do anything to act on it or intentionally create this. Often, a therapist will place an additional hand towel over this area for guys – to give you more sense of comfort and privacy, and make it less obvious if an erection does occur. Just please don’t expect a legitimate massage therapist to do anything sexual with you, and they won’t have a problem with it even if it happens – we know this can be an ordinary response to being touched.

As for crying during massage, sometimes that is the most therapeutic thing that you can do – hopefully, your massage therapist will help you to feel safe enough to feel any emotions your body may be storing, since they sometimes bubble up as the body relaxes. I have been receiving massage regularly for many years, and still it occasionally brings up tears or other emotions for me. Know that even though this happens sometimes, it doesn’t happen all the time, and just because one massage brings up tears, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen that way the next time.

And, of course, always let your therapist know if you prefer deeper pressure, or if they are hurting you – we want to help you feel better, and good communication is important.

And, speaking of communication – some people can only relax if they talk out whatever’s going on with them during the whole massage, others prefer silence and/or sleep through the whole thing – many people will be somewhere in between the two extremes – and may choose a different level of talk each time they come in based on how they are feeling that day.

Many blessings to you all – and definitely continue to get regular massage – for your health and general well-being!

April 21, 2006 at 1:26 pm
(9) Phuong M. says:

Hello, I just wished to express my comments and suggetsions given that I’ve been both a CMT and Massage Parlor(s) owner throughtout the SF Bay Area for 30 years. To summarize all of my experience and love of getting massages, I’ll say it comes down to this:
.Either 90 mins or 2 hrs sessions !!

People who love & enjoy receiving massage (like me) will seldom ask for sessions shorter than 90 mins.
Quality CMTs who care about clients know they enjoy at least 90 mins.
Illegitemate Activities and Non-Professional CMTs “HATE” 90 mins or 2 hrs sessions.
Avoid ALL places offering 30 mins massage sessions, that’s a RED FLAG that illegitimate activities takes place.
Men in English Speaking countries or from lack-of-touch Eastern countries are well known to get erections when touched by females. Latin or European Men are not commonly known for having erections during course of massage by women.

April 22, 2006 at 9:45 pm
(10) masseur says:

“I love having a massage but my problem is that sometimes while the person is massaging my upper body, shoulders & neck, it will release my tension and I begin to cry silently with big crocodile tears. I end up apologizing even though I have been assured that it sometimes happens…

by Willow”

What you are having might be trigger point phenomena, if there are no emotional release with the tear. This happens sometimes. Expain that to your therapist, no need to feel bad about it.

May 21, 2006 at 5:28 am
(11) Ace says:

A couple things. As a guy, I would hate when a therapist would say “dress down to the the level of your comfort” and leave the room. Why? Some female therapists would much rather have men clothed and are fearful, whereas others prefer clients unclothed because it makes things easier. Would I be a prude and wear my underwear or would I be unclothed and risk the therapist thinking bad things about me? What I decided to do is interrupt the therapist after that question and say “I’m OK with being unclothed with the massage as long as you are OK with that”. That way, I could find out what THEIR comfort level was.

The other real embarrassing thing that happened to me was one of the 1st times I had seen a new therapist. (I honestly am not making this up). The sheets she used for the table were really thin, and they were tucked in. There wasn’t a wrinkle in them. I wasn’t sitting there thinking bad thoughts or anything, but for some unknown reason, while laying on the heated table and waiting for her to come back, I got a dreaded erection out of the blue. Normally, I’m not too bothered, but with the sheets so thin and so tucked in, and me being forced to lay flat, it became pretty obvious. I didn’t have enough time to adjust the sheets, and when she came in, she started asking me questions about my family, etc…the art of distraction. I knew exactly what she was doing, and fortunately, within 5 minutes it was over and the rest of the massage was fine. It would have been better, however, if the sheets were a little thicker and not so tucked in. I’m somewhat afraid to go back because of what she may have thought about me, when in reality, I’m about as a safe and ethical of a client as there is.

August 2, 2006 at 4:58 pm
(12) Stan says:

I am a 39 year old male who recently started getting regular massages from a wonderful female massage therapist. I really enjoy the sessions, but each time I go, I get a full erection and wearing nothing but a towel, it is pretty obvious. I always ignore it, but the worry has begun to affect my relaxation. It is embarrassing and don’t want her thinking I am there for the wrong reasons. Last time she commented “at least I know I’m doing a good job” and laughed a little. I really like this masseusse, but it has become awkward and I am ready to start going elsewhere. I hate trying to read minds and would not want to be the joke of the breakroom.

October 16, 2006 at 9:58 am
(13) Ty says:

Can I get a massage while I’m menstruating?

February 22, 2008 at 9:55 am
(14) In pain says:

I’m having massage therapy as part of physical therapy prescribed by my doctor. My last massage was concentrated completely on my arm. The massage was very painful, and I told the therapist that several times. I finally had to ask him to ease up because I couldn’t take it anymore (which is unusual for me because I have a high pain threshold). He told me bruising would be normal and good, and to ice my arm later. Despite icing and ibuprofen, my arm is very swollen and developing a large bruise. The pain is almost unbearable (and much worse than the pain I was living with before the massage). Is this normal? I really don’t think I can take another massage like this. Please help.

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