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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Shame Free Massage

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Sometimes, awkward moments happen during a massage session, moments that are otherwise treated as offensive or taboo. However, the regular social rules don’t always apply when you’re on a massage table. This is my list of common occurrences you never have to feel ashamed of happening during a massage.

Flatulence It happens! Our bodies contain and must release gases- it’s just a fact of life. It’s bound to happen especially if you’re feeling relaxed or are having your gluteal muscles worked on. Whenever I notice it’s happened, I tend to just ignore it. There’s certainly no reason to be ashamed. You’re not the first client to pass gas on a massage table and you won’t be the last. In fact, these days, flatulence is safer and less alarming than coughing or sneezing!

You Need To Cough/Sneeze/Blow Nose Speaking of which, if you need to cough, sneeze, or blow your nose- its typically no big deal. In this current climate, it may be alarming (whether you feel it’s Covid related or not), but so long as you try your best to turn away from the therapist and cough/sneeze into your elbow it shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re coughing excessively you may ask the therapist for some water to help settle it. You can always ask the therapist for a tissue to sneeze or blow your nose as well.

Shaving So many clients will come in and bashfully say, “you don’t have to work on my legs; I didn’t shave today”. But here’s the deal, every single person who finds their way onto my table is a mammal. Our bodies naturally produce hair, you do not owe shaving to anyone but yourself- least of all your massage therapist! I (and any decent therapist) could not care less; your body hair isn’t going to cut us! Whenever a client comes in apologizing for their hairy legs, I try to make a joke out of it; “I didn’t shave mine either!” Seriously, unshaved body hair isn’t even worth mentioning. Put it out of your mind.

Erection I’m going to start this one off by saying that massage therapy is in no way, shape, form, or fashion intentionally or coincidentally sexual in nature. Be that as it may, an erection can still occur out of nowhere during a massage. Because one of the primary physiological results of massage is increased circulation, an erection is possible with or without sexual arousal. Basically, as long as you don’t ask for a sexual favor and don’t explicitly acknowledge the erection, there’s no need to feel ashamed. Depending on the therapist, they may feel more comfortable excusing themselves from the room to allow it to settle before continuing the session. The client can also ask for the therapist to momentarily step out until the erection is calmed.

Menstruation In the event that you’re in your menstrual cycle- there’s no need to feel uncomfortable. Most places keep a stock of tampons/pads available for staff and guests, so if you happen to need one during your visit- just ask or check the restrooms. Once again, it’s a natural process- there’s no call to feel awkward about it. If you happen to bleed on the table, it’s not the end of the world. The table will be sanitized, and sheets can be cleaned or replaced. It’s nothing to worry about.

Falling Asleep/Drooling/Moaning This one always cracks me up! Many clients come in with the mentality, “I don’t wanna fall asleep because I want to feel the effects of the massage”. I feel it necessary to point out that if you fall asleep in a massage, the effects aren’t lost. You still feel them and will still benefit from them. Personally, I don’t enjoy a massage as much if I don’t doze off during it. I love to fall asleep, and you should too! If you start to nod off, don’t fight it; your body needs the extra rest. Why would you ignore and fight the messages your body is sending you? Not often, but occasionally, client’s may even drool. No big deal. The table will be sanitized, and the face cradle covering can be washed or replaced. Some clients moan during their massage, and so long as its not obscene or obnoxious- that too is not a call to be embarrassed.

Your Body Size/Your Scars I once had a client come in and, out of nowhere, declare, “I bet you’ve never worked on someone as fat as me”. I couldn’t help but turn frigid. There was no warning or call for this client to assault themselves in such a manner and it hurt to witness. Not only was it not true, but it’s irrelevant. Some people come in with such a strong sense of hatred for their bodies. Some people feel they weigh too much, or their scars are ugly, they need to change this or they need to change that... It doesn’t matter your weight, body size, disability, or otherwise- if you seek out bodywork there is always some way to accommodate your massage needs. It is not only unnecessary to hate these things about your body, but it can even be counterproductive to obsess over them. When you’re on my table you never have to apologize for the shape your body is in.

Your Feet A lot of people come in and are ashamed or afraid of their feet. This does not make sense to me. Your poor feet do so much for you in supporting the rest of the body, why hate them? The feet are one of my favorite regions to work because they are so deserving of being taken care of. People feel ashamed because their feet are dry, or they’ve been on them all day; that’s not a problem! Almost everyone has dry skin on their feet, and so long as your feet (and body) is relatively clean, there’s no reason to deny yourself the bodywork you need.

If Your Phone Goes Off I love this one because it happens all the time! Clients are so apologetic, like they’ve committed some terrible crime. But unless it’s unusually loud or a ring with profanity, you’re typically not going to disturb the rest of the spa. I always tell clients that “it won’t bother me unless its bothering you”. If you need to answer a call or just have to silence the phone, let the therapist know. Not a big deal, even though it happens often.

I was trained that there were essentially three ways to handle “awkward” moments in massage; you can ignore it, you can make a joke of it, or you can reassure the client with clinical phrasing. I tend to ignore most “awkward” moments unless the client feels the need to vocalize them. The main thing is not to make a mountain out of a mole hill, most of these are no harm, no foul situations.

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark, MMT

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