Dealing with Ticklishness During a Massage 

By Hannah Moss - Thai Yoga Massage -


How should you deal with a ticklish client during a massage? What if you’re the ticklish client – can you still have massages? Is there anything you can do to lessen the ticklish feelings?

As a Thai massage therapist, I recently had a client who was very ticklish – to the point that she didn’t usually have massages, as she found them unbearable. I had concerns about how the treatment would go, but I was up for the challenge!

What does it mean to feel ticklish?

Ticklish people are extremely touchy or sensitive about being touched in a certain way on certain parts of their bodies. Some of the most common ticklish areas are the soles of the feet, the sides of the torso and ribs, the underarms, the knees, and the neck.

When a ticklish person is tickled it usually causes them to have a number of different reactions, including laughing, squirming and involuntary twitching. There is some evidence to suggest that the laughing associated with tickling is simply a nervous reaction that’s being triggered, as very ticklish people often start laughing before actually being tickled.

Dealing with a ticklish client

So, I knew my client was going to be ticklish during her treatment, but nothing could prepare me for the extent of her ticklishness! As soon as I lay my hands on her she flinched. When I was using acupressure – which is generally very firm – even using a large area such as my palm, and even on a solid area of her body, such as her back, she twitched and involuntarily laughed. OK, I could see I was going to have my work cut out here.

I knew that as a child I used to be a lot more ticklish than I am now. And I knew that I’d managed to overcome some of that ticklishness using the breath, so I started to apply the same techniques to my client. I could tell she wanted the massage, but it was difficult for her to relax.

As the massage went on I encouraged her to take deep breaths and to breathe through the tickles. When she felt the sensation to take a deep breath in, then let it out slowly, even if the feeling was still there. Concentrating on her breath seemed to help her take her mind off the tickles and encourage her body to relax more.

Working with ticklish feet

I knew working on my client’s feet was going to be the biggest challenge. First, I explained exactly what I was going to do and made sure I didn’t accidentally touch the sole of the foot before she was ready. I held her foot from the top only so she could get used to my touch. Then, I asked her to inhale and as she exhaled I pressed surely and firmly onto the first pressure point. I did this for each pressure point of the foot, asking her to inhale and then applying pressure as she exhaled. Amazingly, we managed to get round the whole foot without a single laugh or flinch!

My client was quite surprised too, and we followed exactly the same technique for the second foot, which again caused no ticklish reaction in her. In fact, she said it was the most relaxed she’d felt during any massage treatment.

Top tips for ticklish clients 

Based on my experience with this client, here are my top tips for dealing with ticklishness:

For the therapist:

  • Make sure you tell your client exactly what you’re doing and where you’re about to touch them, especially if it’s likely to be a very ticklish area. That way, they can be prepared and won’t have the added shock factor – it’s much easier when they know it’s coming.
  • Encourage them to use their breath to help them through the tickles.
  • On a particularly ticklish area, such as the soles of the feet, invite them to inhale, then apply the pressure as they exhale.
  • Make sure you use confident, firm pressure – don’t come in too lightly, as it’s the feathery touch that tickles the most.
  • Don’t be put off by a ticklish client. It’s easy to think it’ll be too hard to massage them, there’s nothing you can do, it’s out of your control. But by working with your client, remaining calm and focused, and using breathing techniques, you can encourage a deep state of relaxation that they may never have experienced before.

For the client:

  • Let your therapist know if you’re a ticklish person and where your most ticklish areas are, so they can be prepared.
  • Follow any instructions your therapist gives you with regard to breathing, as it’ll help you work through the tickles.
  • If you can, try to distract yourself by thinking relaxing, pleasurable thoughts so that you’re not focussing solely on your bodily sensations.
  • Don’t be put off having a massage just because you’re ticklish. There are ways to work with these feelings and you may experience a deeper state of relaxation, or even a profound change to your ticklishness, through regular massage.

If you’re a ticklish person and find it difficult having massages, I’d love to meet you. Contact me to book a Thai massage in Brighton and let’s see if we can work through those tickles!

To read more about Hannah click here.

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3 Comments on “Dealing with Ticklishness During a Massage ”

  1. I must be the only person who actually enjoys being tickled. As long as the person is trust worthy and in control, and not doing it abusively, the laughter can be very endorphin inducing. Firm pressure can tickle more than just light touch for some by the way. As anyone tickled on the sides or ribs could attest.

    1. Really good point. Laughter is a great way to release endorphins. I love foot massages, but my feet can be really ticklish. It’s a mixture of enjoying it, and not being able to bear it. It’s interesting isn’t it. Maybe just letting go, because it is the more the anticipation (as Hannah mentions) that’s difficult than the enjoyable aspect of the tickle.

  2. Thanks for your comment Krystalmyth. Ticklishness is so interesting isn’t it? I agree that firm pressure can be just as ticklish – I hate being tickled in the ribs! But yes, letting go as Nisha says and trusting the tickler can perhaps make for an enjoyable experience. As indeed can learning to relax during a massage.

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