May 30, 2011

How to get a Bad Massage

There's a lot more to getting a bad massage than just finding the wrong therapist! For those who don't want to enjoy the experience, I've assembled a few hints on how to have a lousy time on a massage table. It's easy if you know how.

1) Arrive late. This is a simple but effective technique. Make your therapist rush, or worry about whether he'll be able to finish in time for his next appointment! This is especially effective for first appointments, when you have to squeeze in the paperwork anyway. (Though some therapists may spoil this by budgeting extra time for it.)

2) Start off uncomfortable. Arrive chilled, if possible. Be sure not to go to the bathroom before your appointment.

3) Undress to your level of discomfort. It's actually harder than you might think, to make the undressing uncomfortable. Your therapist is going to tell you to undress as much as you want and get under the covers, and then he'll leave the room, and give you all the time in the world. But you can still make it uncomfortable, by imagining that that you're supposed to take off all your clothes, if you'd rather not, or by imagining that you're not supposed to, if you rather would. The sad truth of the matter is that your therapist doesn't give a damn, and he'll keep you modestly covered up with the sheets whatever you do. Five minutes after the massage he won't remember whether you had your undies on or not. So it's up to you to be sure and do what's uncomfortable for you.

4) If you forgot to arrive uncomfortable, it's not too late. You can still get uncomfortable. After 20 minutes, you might find your bladder full, and then rather than saying so, and hopping off the table wrapped in the blankets to nip out for a quick pee, you can just tough it out. Or maybe your nose will fill with mucus, with your face down in that face-cradle. Then all you have to do is not ask for a kleenex, and try to sniff it up, or surreptitiously wipe your nose on the sheets. You'd be amazed how much discomfort and distraction you can leverage out of a simple thing like that! Of course, if you ask your therapist for a kleenex to blow your nose he'll be happy to hand you one, and take the kleenex afterwards and toss it away – he does it a dozen times a day – and you'll get barely any discomfort out of it all. So don't speak up! -- Or you might get too cold, or too hot, or the face cradle might be scratchy: the opportunities are endless. The secret to maximizing your discomfort is not letting your therapist know about it.

5) If you've got an injury, or some part of your body that you don't want your therapist to touch -- for any reason -- don't tell him! Just tense up every time he approaches it. (He's not going to uncover or touch your breasts or genitals anyway: but that doesn't mean you can't worry about that, too.)

6) Likewise, if the pressure he's using is too light or too heavy, be sure to keep mum about it.

7) If not speaking up is too difficult, there's always the opposite approach. Micromanage the massage! Indulge in your anxiety that he might not hit the right spots, before he's even gotten to that area of your body, and direct him to them with vague but plentiful instructions. This will throw off his rhythm, at the same time ensuring that you don't sink into any unwanted state of relaxation. If you keep busy peppering him with directions, your risk of really enjoying anything is small. (Be careful not to confuse this with asking him to do more, if he's leaving an area and it feels unfinished – that's the sort of thing that puts you at risk for a good massage.)

8) Be sure to make a mental inventory of everything you dislike about your body, and imagine that he's revolted by it all. It's unfortunately true that most massage therapists really like bodies, of all shapes and sizes, and they have spent years seeing what people really look like under their clothes. He probably thinks you're gorgeous. But what's to keep you from imagining he doesn't? Be creative!

9) Rush to get off the table. It's important to imagine that your therapist needs you to get out pronto, and to scramble hastily to get dressed. (If you followed instruction #1, and arrived late, this will be a bit easier, but it's certainly not necessary.) Whatever you do, don't spend five minutes looking dreamily at the ceiling and feeling content! Something like that can leave you feeling relaxed and happy for days.


  1. All good suggestions--not.

    Thank you, actually! It's always good to hear how therapists deal with the same situations but from the other side.

  2. Haha, thats Brilliant, I've been reading some of your stuff and it's fantastic!!
    To be honest I've always worried about point 6, sometimes when the pressure's soft I've never been ok to say its too soft, i'm quite a big guy and always worried if more pressure could hurt the therapist working, I would hate for someone to hurt themself fixing me!

    1. I realize that this is YEARS late, but I am a petite person who does deep tissue massage. We've been trained on how NOT to hurt ourselves. Leverage is my best friend. Speak up!