It’s not that I have an aversion to the first session with a new client. I do enjoy getting to know new people. It’s just that, of all the bodywork we will do together, it’s my least favorite. I’ll explain…

During the first session, I am getting familiarized with a person’s body, tuning in to their nervous systems for the first time, barely beginning to assess the situation. I am learning about their health history, injuries, and wellness goals. Both the client and I are feeling out whether our personalities jibe. Safety and trust are still not fully established. 

Either this session is the most intense (tender, sensitive, inflamed,  sore)…or a person has a higher degree of numbness or lack of sensation. They are armored (shelled or hardened) due to chronic tension. Depending on a person’s constitution (soft tissue texture) and lifestyle. Hydration, stress levels, inflammation, nutrition, occupation, hobbies, habitude to self-care, frequency of receiving bodywork, etc.

Like exercise or starting a new physical activity, post-treatment, it has the most – soreness. Although the muscles and joints may feel less pain after your massage, soreness afterward is more common than not post-first treatment. Being touched shines a light on things and can cause a new level of awareness that wasn’t there before. Bones may need to adjust to their newly held position, your nervous system is still unwinding; which can be uncomfortable initially. These discomforts go away after the first or second time working on a tight area. 

Between the 1st and second treatments, there is more regression because the neuromuscular re-patterning, or a new habit, has not formed yet. And muscles tend to want to go back to the way they were, especially if they’ve been that way for a long while.

By session 3 or 4, the work begins to really “hurt so good,” and that’s when the work gets juicy. When the nervous system experiences harmony. And as therapies progress, the body holds the work longer. We get to maintenance. 

The sessions build on the ones before it. Sculpting away the tension patterns (new and old), altering structure and function, and increasing blood flow (as well as all the other fluids within the body – i.e., lymph, CSF). Stress goes down, sleep improves, flexibility returns and pain disappears or becomes more manageable. 

And, the relationship with your therapist deepens as trust and familiarity are built and it becomes a unique and cherished part of your support system.

I can only speak for some practitioners whose style of work is similar to mine. I can only say how it works when you work with me…

It gets better with time. Just as consistent working out and/or a stretching practice does, the bodywork progresses and begins to produce significant and lasting results, and that’s the most rewarding work for both of us! That’s why the first session is my least favorite.

Shalene Zarate, LMT, NMT, CST
Beyond being a massage therapist, Shalene’s calling is to help deepen the relationship people have with their own bodies and strengthen the lifestyles that nourish them.