Nothing beats a professional massage. It can soothe your body, mind and spirit by improving immunity, circulation and anxiety. You’ll even sleep better. But before you head off for your massage, there are some things you need to know. Avoid awkward moments, wasted cash and potential pain with these 15 tips.

1. Be early, please…

Your massage therapist wants to work on you for your entire scheduled appointment. If you arrive 10 minutes early, this allows time for consultation and time for you to undress and get on the table by your scheduled start time. By choosing to arrive when your appointment is scheduled to start, puts us behind by 5-10 minutes and your time may be cut short to accommodate the next client. Remember, there is another client after you that deserves their full time as well. If you’re late, this causes a cascade effect which is not fair to your Therapist or the rest of the day’s clients.

2. It’s okay to get naked, but…

Wait until the Therapist leaves the room before taking off any clothing. As a trained professional I will always provide you with proper draping and only uncover the area I am working on. It is your choice to undress to the point where you feel comfortable and remember, you will be covered with sheets where needed.

That said, even if you are comfortable with nudity, that doesn’t mean your massage therapist wants to see everything. Remember that they are trained to properly drape your body to avoid being too close and personal. They may be comfortable with the sides of your glutes, but that doesn’t mean they want to see you fully exposed.

If you are going to receive stretching as a part of your massage, you may want to keep your underwear on for comfort.

3. It’s okay to ask for more or less pressure

Your massage therapist is happy to oblige your request for more or less pressure. They won’t take offense. In fact, they want you to tell them what you like and what you don’t like during the session. Having open communication with your Therapist during your session will help to achieve the best possible experience.

4. No perfume or aftershave

While your perfume or aftershave may smell wonderful to you, it may be a bit overwhelming to your massage therapist. Since he or she will be working closely for about an hour or longer, strong odors could be offensive. In addition, the client after you may be sensitive to strong odors.

5. No, it’s not supposed to hurt

Some pain is necessary, right? Well, not really. While there may be slight discomfort during a stretch or when a tight muscle is worked on, it should not overtake the experience. If too much force is put on a muscle, the muscle tightens up more. The result is even more pain, possibly bruising and muscle damage. That’s why it is imperative to let your therapist know if something hurts or you need less pressure.

6. Let them know what ails you

If you have a health concern or condition, let your therapist know. if you’ve had a change in your medical condition since your last massage, let your therapist know that too. Telling them halfway through a deep-tissue massage that you bruise easily because you are on blood thinners may be too late. Remember this applies to topical medication too. Whatever you put on your skin, your Therapist is also absorbing.

7. You don’t have to talk

The objective is to relax. That’s why you’re there. So don’t feel that you have to make conversation with your therapist. But, on the other hand, if you need to speak — do so. If you want to speak because that makes you feel more comfortable, then that’s okay too.

8. Remember to breathe

Sometimes, without realizing it, we tend to hold our breath. But during a massage, particularly when the therapist is working out a knot, it’s crucial to breathe. In fact, it’s important to breathe fully and deeply. It’s especially important to oxygenate the blood supply to aid tense muscles. Deep and slow breathing has even been reported as a complementary approach in the treatment of chronic pain.

9. Drink lots of water after your appointment

It’s particularly important to hydrate after your session. Like a workout, muscles become dehydrated after a massage. You have to replenish all that lost water by drinking more. Then there’s metabolic waste, which is produced by muscles. When your muscles are tight or you have a knot, it constricts circulation in those areas. That inhibits the body’s ability to flush out waste. Drinking water post-massage allows the kidneys to effectively eliminate the new waste.

10. Have a warm pre-massage shower

For the best massage, have a warm shower first. Relaxing in a long shower loosens the muscles and will help relieve tension during the massage. In addition, feeling clean will mean fewer body insecurities. Plus, the therapist will appreciate your cleanliness — for obvious reasons.

11. Workout before your massage, not after

Massage or workout, which comes first?  It is best to wait about 24 hours before or after working out. Worked-out and exercised muscles will be tired and benefit the most from a massage. Working out immediately after a massage is not a great idea since you’re likely to stress and strain the muscles that were just relaxed. Plus, you’ll run the risk of being too tired and injure yourself.  Allow your body to heal anytime you have been engaged in strenuous activity.

12. Time your massage appropriately

You should consider the best time for your schedule before booking an appointment. Some people feel invigorated after receiving a massage and prefer to make this the start of their day. Others use massage as a way to eliminate day-to-day stress, preferring to book at the end of a long day. You know your body better than a therapist, so trust your instincts.

13. Know that bodily functions may happen

While massages are sure to relax you, they can also improve digestion. That means an occasional stomach grumble or even flatulence. But don’t be embarrassed  — it happens to the best of us. In fact, it’s completely normal and happens a lot during massages. For you and your Therapist’s comfort, avoid having a full stomach and foods that cause stomach distress before your appointment. You may also want to use the restroom before your session.

Sneezing, coughing and needing to blow your nose is normal. Don’t be offended when your Therapist offers you Hand Sanitizer. This is to avoid spreading germs between you, your Therapist and the next client. It’s just a good sanitary practice.

14. Makeup…

Please remove all makeup, including but not limited to mascara, foundation and lipstick. These can smear on your face and stain the face cradle.  Some Therapists may choose to charge extra for the cost of having to replace linen for stains that don’t come out in the wash.

15. Caffeine

Limit your caffeine intake on the day of your massage. Caffeine can dehydrate you preventing your muscles from receiving the full benefit of massage. Drinking caffeine after your massage may cause your muscles to tense, undoing the relaxation you just received.