As a massage therapist being able to communicate well with you is vital.
I’ve had many massages myself and although they’ve nearly always been great, sometimes things that are said by the therapist can spoil my experience.
Here are a few of the things that I hope you never hear and here’s what I prefer to say to you.
If there is one thing guaranteed to make me feel tense, it’s being told I need to relax. I have such an automatic negative response. Frankly it’s not for me to order you to relax! You might be tense because you’ve had a terrible day or you are worried about something. Maybe in fact you’re tense because my pressure is too strong. You might just have tight muscles and lack flexibility which let’s face it, is likely to be why you are getting a massage.
I prefer to check in with you about my pressure and in particular if I need to work more gently. I say things like ‘see if you can let your shoulder go heavy’. I might very slowly rock or shake the part of you that feels tense. If you can’t let go, I don’t ask again and just work more slowly and gently or move onto another area to massage first. I’m okay with you being where you are right now and want you to feel the same
2. No Pain, no gain
Many now believe this to be an old fashioned way of massaging but therapists up and down the country are still being paid good money to bash and bruise and brutalise their clients who believe it is the only way. Sports Massage in particular has a reputation of being extremely painful. It is a myth to think that massage needs to be like this. There is a world of difference between the discomfort of a therapist finding a tight spot, or an area that refers pain to another part of your body and then using a pressure that feels therapeutic and releasing rather than one that makes you tense up and bite the pillow in pain. If I want to loosen up muscles then I need them to be in a relaxed state. Simply hurting someone is abusive.
Once again, I talk to you about the pressure I’m using. I recognise that some people like a strong pressure and some can only tolerate the gentlest of touch. I also know that one part of your body may enjoy a stronger pressure and yet another part of you might cause you to yell out at the slightest touch. So I don’t just ask once. I keep asking and checking. I give pain scales and request that you tell me if I go past a certain point. I point out that ‘deep’ massage can sometimes be very light.
3. Hurry up (when you’re telling me about your pain or condition)
Your consultation is vital to me giving you the best treatment I can. Your GP may only have 10 minutes to listen to you and then either refer you on or prescribe medication. I have time. Nothing is worse than someone interrupting you and not listening.
I will let you speak and tell your story. I use a check sheet which I can fill in as you give me important nuggets of information about what is going on for you. Your first session in particular is crucial. I will then ask questions to complete your consultation. My final question is “is there anything else you want to tell me before we start your session?”
4. Your body is a wreck!
Believe it or not I have been told this by a therapist. It totally upset me. I have also been told by someone that they had never felt such tight muscles in their career. I felt like I might as well give up on my body (which actually does fantastic things for me and I am lucky to have it, thank you very much!) I felt like I was being body shamed. Not good.
I want to give you hope. I understand that you may want me to validate your pain or discomfort by telling you that “yes you do feel very tight” when you ask me. I will always follow this up with “but that’s why you are here and let’s see how tight you feel at the end of the massage” For the record, I’ve only ever had one client who felt the ‘tightest I’ve ever felt’. I absolutely did not feel the need to mention it and after 6 sessions, he was a new man with a brand new posture and his muscles felt loose and he felt great. (You’re welcome!)
5. I can fix you
Now this is a difficult one. You come to me to be fixed. Is this marketing suicide? Am I unable to do my job?
The truth is that massage is part of the jigsaw puzzle in that journey to better health or well-being. It’s a stepping stone. Pain or stress are incredibly complex issues. I can give you hope and be realistic by saying that I aim to support you so that you are in a better state within a certain time frame. But the important thing is what you do after your massage. I want to empower you to take control of your body and health. This may include changing the activity that caused the pain, resting, (a very difficult one if your pain is caused by your job or training if you are a sports person) working on ways to improve stress in your life, doing rehabilitation exercises, and importantly doing the right rehab at the right time. If after three sessions you are not feeling improvement I will discuss this with you and either change the way I am working or refer you on to another health care professional. I will always suggest you see someone else if after six sessions we are still not moving forward.
Thank you for reading and tell me below if you can add to my list of either good or bad practice when you talk to your therapist.