11 Tips to Get the Most from Your Bodywork Sessions Anywhere, Anytime

Published August 10, 2020 by Jc Drobac

1. Arrive early, use your entire intake time

Show up 10 to 30 minutes ahead of your session for your mandatory intake time.


Massage therapists are required to hold intakes (check in) before your sessions. Let your therapist know if you've had any doctor's appointments, accidents, new bruises, scrapes, cold sores, skin outbreaks, or any other relevant new happenings since your last session. Certain symptoms can actually make bodywork contraindicated (a "no-no") or will require that we modify or adapt your session. Arriving before your bodywork session means we'll always have enough time to learn about important updates AND you get your full treatment time!

2. Know what you want... or don't want

Do one or more areas feel tight, restricted or downright painful? A focus session zooms in on certain issues, or on areas to release restrictions or pain. An especially rough week, and tuning out the world sound good? Maybe some unwinding-energywork or a full-body massage will do the trick. Hot packs on sore muscles? Aromatherapy oils to ease tension? Cupping to increase circulation? Reflexology to flush the organs? Create your own session by letting me know if you'd like certain treatments in your session, or let me create the session for you.

3. Be realistic

Chronic (long-lasting) aches and pains will naturally take longer to heal than acute (newer) ones. Listen to what your body is telling you know and be cognizant of the likely reality that it may take more than one session to resolve pain, especially if in multiple areas. Remember, staying flexible with more frequent bodywork sessions can save getting sidelined by an injury (caused by chronic tightness) later.

4. Relax... REALLY relax!

We know this is (probably) your ONLY real time in your day to fully relax and let go, and we want you to enjoy that. Deep relaxation starts with letting go of the tendency to chat during your session.

Massage therapists may be brilliant (😂), but when we're focusing on conversing with you, we can't focus on giving you our best work: determining and resolving painful trigger points, spinal imbalance, releasing stuck fascia, and so on. (And if we had human-sized spatulas, we'd never even need to wake you up to flip over—sounds good, doesn't it?) Successful deep relaxation is a learned skill and requires regular practice. And what better time to hone this skill than on your massage table?

5. Find your appointment frequency "sweet spot"

How often would you schedule bodywork sessions if time and budget weren't an issue? Now, how often DO YOU schedule sessions? Ever wondered what's the ideal amount for you?

After your next appointment, notice how you feel the next day. Did you sleep deeper or feel more rested? Are you calmer? Less achy/tight? Now check in with yourself again in a few more days, or a week or two. Do you still feel as good as you did right after your last session? (Being mindful of our physical, emotional and even spiritual states can help us know when things feel askew, too.)  The ideal bodywork sweet spot is BEFORE we start to lose the fluid/balanced feeling from our last session. Maybe that's every two or three weeks -- or maybe your bodywork results last a good month before you'd benefit from another session. Determining how frequently you benefit from bodywork --- and scheduling your sessions within this time frame -- can create a perpetual higher quality of daily life that can mean fewer aches and pains, better sleep, a strong immune system, and even feeling more positive and less irritated, depressed or angry.  And what's THAT worth to you?  :) 

6. Shower and shampoo AFTER your session

Skip the before-session shower (and shave and shampoo). They feel great, but bodywork sessions can be messy! Between the hot packs that soften the muscles and leave us sweating and massage gel on the hair and skin, you're better off saving the shower or bath until after your session. Not to mention, a nice bath or shower after bodywork can greatly improve sleep quality, too.

7. "No pain, no gain" ... is insane

Know your limits and state them. If the pressure is ever too much for you --- you'll know if you tense up against the pressure or techniques in your bodywork session, or hold your breath to "push through" it.  This is flat-out counter-intuitive to any relief or improvement to a tight area. Muscling through pain does nothing but cause more pain. It's better to listen to your body's needs. Sometimes mild discomfort is realistic when working an area that's been stuck for a long time or was traumatized from an accident—but discomfort should only ever be mild and very tolerable or it's simply counter-productive to healing. If you're holding your breath or white-knuckling through the discomfort, it's too deep. Asking for lighter pressure when you need it isn't just the client's right, it's their responsibility to relay this. Never be afraid to ask for what you need to make your session amazing—whether it's pressure changes, lighting, music volume, table heat/coolness. Massage therapists appreciate you speaking up.

8. Always request glute work!

You might not receive it, but always ask! Glute, or gluteal/buttocks/hip bodywork is crucial to improving low back and leg flexibility. A tight low back can make for tight middle- and upper-back tension and pain, too. If you're dealing with tension or pain in these areas, ask your therapist if they will do "glute work."  You may find some massage therapists gloss over glute work with only light compression or strokes, or don't incorporate glute work at all in their repertoire (sometimes because working the glutes can be a controversial issue, especially if a client isn't expecting it, some massage therapists can be gun-shy about the area). But many massage therapists understand the importance of mobilizing the very strong gluteal muscles, and the impact on whole-body flexibility can begin with deeply massaged gluteal muscles. And going "commando" (underwear-free) allows for great high-contact glute work—there's nothing like it!

9. And ask for belly work, too!

Digestive issues are unbelievably common. From sluggish bowels (if you don't have a bowel movement after each meal, welcome to the world of sluggish digestion!) to cramping, to diarrhea or loose stool. If you're not experiencing regular digestion, asking for belly work to be incorporated to your session can help give that added boost toward regularity as well as strengthen the immune system, since 80% of the immune system is in the digestive tract. I perform all belly work OVER the covers, which feels less vulnerable and aids in relaxation.

10. Skip the post-massage workout

Unless you're in training for an upcoming event (and have booked a sports massage session), soak in the deep relaxation and head home. Skip the workouts or even errands, if possible. Instead, revel in your down time by adding even more relaxing events to your day—like a nap, reading a book, meditating, going for a light walk, enjoying a nutritious meal or snack, or going to sleep early. Notice how the deep relaxation feature of bodywork extends for hours or days when avoiding activities like TV, computers, cell phones, and various other electronic equipment that awakens the brain and can throw off our circadian rhythms (due to the blue light emitted from the LED screens). Savor that good self-care feeling! 

11. ENJOY your session!

It's easy to want to work on long-standing issues when we finally get to our bodywork appointments. And while that's a good thing, sometimes (even if we are experiencing pain in certain areas) just a good ol' full-body massage can feel amazing, and have more therapeutic effects than a focus-work session.

Full-body massage includes the back, glutes, legs and feet, arms and hands, face, neck and scalp. It not only boosts the lymphatic system, but the brain as well. "Feel-good" chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin ("happiness quartet":) are released from the brain, boosting our mood and create a healthy and natural high. When this happens, cortisol (a stress chemical) and adrenaline start to decrease, as does the overall perceived stress levels and "fight, freeze or flight" responses in our bodies—a VERY good thing!

Always water, water, water!

Make sure to drink lots of water after bodywork treatments to avoid soreness and promote flushing of toxins. This is key. Humidity, air conditioning, furnaces, fans, workouts... so many things contribute to dehydration, leading to symptoms like constipation, headaches, fatigue, and even depression. A good rule of thumb for daily water consumption is to drink half our weight in ounces (i.e., a 100-pound person would consume at least 50 ounces of water per day) or sometimes even more with extreme conditions. So drink up! :D