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QUESTION: I got a massage today at the student clinic at the local school (because I can't afford a private practitioner). I had a few questions about methods. They always ask that I undress to my level of commfort and so I leave on my underwear and socks. Despite that they usually ask if I want my feet massaged, and when they get to my legs if I want my glutts massaged. Are those important muscles groups? I assumed that by keeping those parts covered they would simply bipass them without question. Why do you think they ask? Also why are feet ticklish? also they take a blood pressure before and after. my blood pressure is usually the same. I'm worried I am disappointing the person. lol. How important is blood pressure levels? And lastly after completing back, legs, or arms they seem to use what I call "magic fingers" a few times over those areas just lightly glazing over the areas they massaged. Kind of tickling me. Why do they do that?

ANSWER: Hi James,

Undress to your level of comfort means different things to different people.  The reason most folks leave their underpants on is for modesty and that's good.  But there are ways (pressure, compression) to work directly on the glutes over the cover and the underpants are never even exposed.

Different schools and instructors teach different methods of massage, draping, etc.  It's always appropriate to ask questions either during or after (or before) the massage.

Yes, the gluteal muscles are important!  They attach to your upper body and to your lower body and are large, powerful muscles.  But if you prefer that they not be touched, just let your student know in advance.

If you prefer your feet not be touched, let him or her know before the massage.  But perhaps you, like lots of people, just left your socks on because of cold or 'ugly' feet (I cannot believe how many people think they have ugly feet--they are just feet.) Feet can also be massaged over socks if the client prefers.

Usually by the time the feet are being massaged, the body has adapted to touch and the feet are not as ticklish.  Light touch is more ticklish than deeper, secure touch.  If it tickles, let them know right then so they can change the pressure.

Regarding the blood pressure.  Perhaps that particular school is involved in a research project.  I have never had anyone take my bp before and after a massage nor have I done it.  Don't worry about disappointing them.  Their job is to make sure that YOU are not disappointed.  :)

There are light, feathery strokes and brushing strokes that can be used as finishing strokes.  They are used to settle down the little blood vessels or smooth the 'energy' around the body.  Feel free to ask your student or the instructor.

You should have had an intake or medical history form prior to the massage.  Many of those forms have a place that says 'are there any areas you do not want touched?'  If their form does not, just write it in anyway.

I hope I have answered all of your questions.  Thank you for asking and don't be shy about asking your student practitioners--it will help you and it will help them.  And if you don't understand their answer, ask the instructor.  It will help him or her, too.

Take care,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: How long do massage therapists stay strickly as an MT? Or do most change their career after a while or include something else like hair, makeup, or selling nutritional products to kind of mix it up? The school I went to was just a massage school, but I guess recently they became a school of estetics as well. Do MTs generally do well only doing that?

Also what does it say about me that I should just about always have sexual thoughts when getting a massage from a woman? lol. I'm 32 years old and it doesn't seem I should think those types of things. It seems disrespectful to the person and their profession.

ANSWER: Hi James,

You raise some good questions.

Depending on the individual and the training they have, they may have a lifetime massage career or they may burn out and hurt themselves (neck, carpal tunnel, back) in a couple of years.  It seems to me that most just drop out when that happens.  

Sometimes they drop out because they cannot get enough clients and so have to do other work.  It really depends on the training (did it include good business and marketing classes?  Are they willing to promote themselves?  Can they get clients?  Can they keep the clients?   Did they learn great body mechanics so they won't hurt themselves?)

Some add in products or may take training in another field so they have more to offer or so they can 'work less hard.'  I have more often seen hair dressers become massage therapists than the reverse.

Sexual arousal is a natural occurrence and a good school helps students learn how to avoid it (no tickly movements around the area of potential stimulation) and how to drape so it's not noticeable if it does happen.  Sometimes, it just happens especially if the massage is light rather than deeper into the muscles.  You might want to ask for deeper pressure if that's the case.

Hope this helps!

Thank you for writing,


Kathryn Merrow
The Pain Relief Coach

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: So you're saying MTs suffer from career ending injuries within only a couple of years? Part-time just finishing schooling for it is 2 years. lol.

Hi James,

That is exactly what I am saying.  If a student doesn't learn and practice great body mechanics--if they work with their back rounded and hands in crazy positions and head way forward--they will get hurt.  They DO get hurt.  And that is the end of their hoped-for career.  :(

You, as the body on the table, can actually tell the difference when a practitioner is using great, powerful body stances versus working all hunched over.  You might not be as aware of it as I am, but I can tell face down.

It's very sad to pay that much money and not have the proper training but sometimes that is what happens.

Take care,



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Kathryn Merrow


I can respond to questions about migraines and headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, hand-wrist-arm pain, upper back pain, and other assorted and miscellaneous pain symptoms. I can also respond to general questions about massage and how to select a massage therapist.


I have been a massage therapist since 1992 specializing primarily in pain relief techniques. I utilize the St. John Method of Neuromuscular Massage Therapy (NMT) and other bodywork modalities. I'm The Pain Relief Coach online.

Professional Member of American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCTMB)


My initial training in massage was at Health Enrichment Center in Lapeer, Michigan. I have had advanced training or workshops with Kurashova Institute for Studies in Physical Medicine, St. John Neuromuscular Institute of Pain Relief, Center for Self-Healing and many others. I now share my education and experience as a Massage Instructor and Pain Relief Coach.

Awards and Honors
The highest honor I receive is when someone tells me that they finally understand why they had pain, that they took action and that their pain is either less or is totally gone.

Past/Present Clients
I have done well over 20,000 therapeutic massage sessions, primarily with clients with various types of pain or painful syndromes.

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