January 18, 2017

A Massage Enthusiast’s Guide to Bliss.

As a practicing massage therapist for over 17 years, I don’t just love to massage; I need it myself, too.

My body gets tight from doing such physical work and the repetitive movements easily develop into injuries.

Finding a massage that meets my needs has been difficult.

I’ve been touched by dozens of therapists in the last two decades and have left most sessions wishing they had been different.

I prefer a barefoot massage called ashiatsu (pronounced ah-shee-aht-soo). The pressure relaxes me and reaches those areas underneath the superficial muscle layers. Because ashiatsu is not a common practice, finding a provider is sometimes challenging.

A coupIe of weeks ago, I called to make an ashiatsu appointment to an established massage clinic. The clinic has well-known therapists and excellent online reviews.

Following some obligatory paperwork, my therapist and I had our pre-session interview. I explained what I was looking for from the massage but I said I was open to a full body massage, if that could be accomplished.

My therapist agreed but then informed me that she was unable to give neck massage due to some furniture restrictions. The area I specifically asked for attention on was ignored.

Unfortunately, this is not a rare experience regardless what style of massage we seek. I was truly frustrated. I wanted to know what I had to do that would benefit me the most. Why did my therapist ignore my requests?

First, I have a confession to make: I spent many early years in practice operating in a similar fashion. After all, I was the one who had been trained in anatomy, physiology and various massage techniques, not my clients.

I also had a skill set I was comfortable with and a belief system based on my education, continuing education courses and my direct experience. I was missing the realization that I could never know another person’s body as well as they do.

It wasn’t part of my formal training but something I came to learn over time. After posing my dilemma to fellow therapists (in a way that sounded like this was a client of mine to get unbiased responses), I discovered that I was going about the process of booking a massage all wrong.

I realized I should be asking more questions prior to booking. To get a specific treatment, these are the questions to ask before your next appointment:

What does a typical session of that length include?

Can the massage style I want be applied anywhere or just in certain areas?

Which therapist do you recommend for my concerns (for practices that are not sole proprietorships)?

How do clients describe their (your) work?

Is my only option a full body massage or can my session be customized to work on what I need most?

As a provider myself, I know how it feels to work with one of “those people” who map out the session like they’re in charge of the massage they receive. Guess what? They are!

I also know the overall disdain for high-maintenance clients in our industry. Overcoming my fear of not being liked in order to get the service I’m paying for is still a work in progress.

I’ve learned that asking questions rather than dictating is the best way to get what I want without causing (too much) resentment. To get the the ultimate bliss, I nowadays do the following in the treatment:

1. There’s a learning curve for the first appointment. I’m as specific as possible during the intake and stick to those requests without adding things during the massage.

2. If the pressure doesn’t feel effective or hurts too much, I ask if they will lighten up or use more pressure. I follow it up by telling them that it feels right or asking for further adjustment until it does.

3. If the problem area I requested feels like it is over but I want more time there, I ask if more time will be spent there later in the massage. If the answer is no, I ask for more and suggest an area that can be skipped or addressed briefly.

4. If a therapist isn’t honoring my requests, I politely remind them of my goals by saying something like, “I understand that, but I really need more work on my shoulder. Could you stop working on my foot and come back to it if we have time?”

5. If a therapist asks for feedback, I’m honest. Expecting them to know I don’t like something when I say it is “okay” is confusing. Telling the truth may be awkward but that’s how they learn.

6. If the therapist is talking too much, I stop answering questions that aren’t related to the treatment they usually get the hint. If they don’t, I kindly tell them I just want to relax.

7. I give honest feedback upon conclusion of the session. Even if I don’t see a future with that provider, my comments may help another client.

Although it takes additional legwork up front, asking more questions before booking takes less time than getting massages I’m disappointed with.

Being present during the first massage and honoring my right to the work that helps me most sets me up for less involvement later.

I not only get the satisfaction of feeling my time and money were well spent, but reap the joy of pain-free movement necessary to give my clients the treatment they (and I) deserve.


Author: Cath Cox

Image: Gratisography

Editor: Sara Kärpänen 

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