Aside from effective massage techniques, one of the most important aspects to giving a good massage is to understand and address your massage client's needs. By fully understanding your client's issues, problem areas, and preferred treatment methods, you can be well prepared to address a number of the unique client-specific issues that you will encounter during your career as a massage therapist and will ready you for consistently giving a good massage.
Conduct an Interview
It is always important to speak with your client prior to beginning a massage therapy session, to ensure that you are both on the same page about the expectations for change, focus, and treatment during the massage. Clients may sometimes come in for a deep tissue massage, even if they normally receive a light, relaxing Swedish massage. Techniques that you normally use might not be preferred in a new session, and some clients may want you to focus on their legs and back, even though you normally work on their neck and shoulders. By conducting a thorough interview with your client, you can be sure that you are well informed of their focus areas and expectations, which is essential to providing exceptional service and to giving a good massage.
Before a massage, the clients' interviews are the ideal time to speak about factors that may have led to the problem areas, to help you tailor your massage techniques. If a client comes in complaining about low back pain, find out the history of the pain, and possible causes of the problem. Do they drive often? Is there any past surgery or accident that may have contributed to the pain? What kind of pain is it - a shooting pain that may be linked to a pinched nerve, or general muscle soreness that they want addressed during the massage? Clients provide a wealth of information and when you speak with them, you can better prepare for giving a good massage.
Be Aware and Informed
Once you are in the massage, being totally aware and informed of your clients' expectations might mean changing the plan mid-way through the massage. Clients may communicate to you that they want to switch from deep tissue massage techniques to a Swedish massage, and giving a good massage means being able to communicate to the client any changes or focus areas that you believe would be beneficial.
For example, imagine a client who has requested a Swedish massage for relaxation, and indicates noticing some adhesions in their shoulders and back. If you want to change massage techniques to address these areas, you should always ask the client if they want you want to address the adhesions with deeper techniques before actually doing so - "never assuming" is part of giving a good massage! Just because a client mentions a problem area in the initial interview does not necessarily mean that they want you to spend time on it during the massage. Clients may just be giving you background information to be helpful. This can be understandably confusing, but it is a common break in communication between the therapist and the client, and can unfortunately lead to your client leaving unhappy, or uncomfortable if you use the wrong massage techniques.
Understand Appropriate Positioning
Giving a good massage means being ready and able to adjust your table to accommodate all clients. Not everybody will want, or be able, to lie on the table prone or supine during a massage. The clients you encounter will likely have a number of unique personal and medical needs. By understanding how to appropriately position clients and alter your massage techniques for any number of issues, you can be sure to give each of your clients the individual service and attention that they deserve. Some preparation recommendations for always giving a good massage:
Preparing for Emotional Issues: Existing or Brought on by Massage Techniques
- Stocking your room with at least two extra bolsters, or three pillows. These can be used to support a side-lying position, and can provide extra comfort to people with injuries or painful areas. In the event that you are performing pregnancy massage, techniques aided by bolsters are essential in giving a good massage.
- Positioning also includes ensuring that the client is enjoying a comfortable temperature during the massage. Clients should always be asked whether they are too cold or too warm. Be prepared to accommodate them with extra blankets of varying thicknesses and warmth.
Giving a good massage also means being ready to address clients' emotional issues. Sometimes, an emotional memory may come up during an otherwise routine massage. Clients experience muscle tension due to emotional stress, and when addressing the physical ailments of a client, thoughts and memories of the related cause of the stress may occur.
Even if your client is not emotional when they arrive for the massage, techniques used during the session may bring up feelings or memories related to an event or injury. Don't worry! This isn't necessarily a sign that you aren't giving a good massage; most people have varied reactions to touch, and some of these emotions may manifest as crying. It's important to understand that while these situations can be awkward and potentially embarrassing, they are fairly common and should be treated with respect and compassion before, during, and after a massage. Clients should not be counseled by you during these emotional situations, as this is outside of your scope of practice.
As a massage therapist, it is your job to use effective massage techniques to the best of your ability, while giving a good massage, and maintaining a professional relationship with your client. Sometimes, it may be tempting to give advice to someone experiencing an emotional trauma or problem, but a better way to support your client would be to simply provide them with focused, caring touch therapy through massage. Clients, whether dealing with emotional issues or not, deserve your open communication with them to either address, or redirect options for therapy.
Use a Closing Technique
Finally, it is best to select closing massage techniques that bring the massage to a relaxing and mindful end. Simply stopping can feel sudden, and leave the body feeling unbalanced at the end of giving a good massage. Clients each enjoy specific methods, but light tapotement, a series of light effleurage strokes, or perhaps traction of the neck and legs can leave your client feeling whole. As always, be sure to let the client know how you plan to close so that they're informed and aware of your massage techniques. Clients who have a smaller frame may not enjoy tapotement, and clients with a larger frame may not enjoy light effleurage. By utilizing a closing technique at the end of the massage, clients will feel whole and leave happy and relaxed.
By Laurie Craig Certified Massage Instructor
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