What Is a Full-Body Massage?

A Massage Where They Cover (Almost) Everything

full body massage
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In a full-body massage, a therapist will massage the entire body during a therapeutic massage. Sessions typically last a minimum of 50 minutes which allows enough time to work over all the major areas of the body like the back, shoulders, legs, feet, arms, hands, and neck. 

What To Expect

Generally, the session starts with the client disrobing completely or wearing only undergarments and lying face down on a padded table under a sheet. The therapist will begin with the back and shoulders before moving down the body. Once the client has flipped over about mid-way through the session time, the therapist works back up the body, usually ending with neck and shoulders and sometimes the scalp. Men may also receive a pectoral massage.

If there is a problem area that needs extra attention, such as a sore back or tight shoulders, request that the therapist spend more time focused on those trouble spots but the trade-off may be less time spent on other areas of the body. To ensure the full treatment of every body part, as well as a focus on specific issues, make an appointment for a longer session time.

Types of Massage

Spas can offer a full-body massage in a wide variety of specialized formats. Among the most popular is the Swedish massage, which focuses on warming the muscle tissue to releasing tension and breaking up muscle "knots." A deep tissue massage mimics many of the same movements as a Swedish massage but with higher intensity pressure. A hot stone massage uses heated rocks placed along the body to relax tight muscles and allow the therapist to release pressure points. There are even treatments like shiatsu, in which a therapist uses his feet and stands atop the client to knead out the stress from the back.

History

The modern full-body massage was unheard of prior to the 1880s with its origins coming from the infamous Rest Cure for "neurasthenia," a debilitating melancholy common among society ladies in the late 19th century. During the bed rest period, full-body massage was given for circulation and to increase the patient’s appetite, a kind of substitute for exercise. 

The Rest Cure eventually fell out of favor, but the popularity of general massage greatly increased by the early 1900s and was considered part of good health. By the 1960s, however, old-fashioned terms like massage parlors, masseuse and full-body massage had fallen into disrepute, acting as code words for prostitution. For that reason, the terms massage therapy, massage therapist and Swedish massage began to replace the previous terms of referring to massage and the therapists who practice it.

Spas to Avoid

There are still many bogus "spas" that operate like the old massage parlors in the United States. Those will have signs that say "full-body massage" or "Asian massage" or "full-body Asian massage" as a way of indicating they may offer illegal sexual contact or a "happy ending," during the session. Do not expect a happy ending if you ask for a full-body massage at a legitimate spa.