So you want to be a better massage therapist?

[Photo courtesy of Ryan Hoyme at MassageNerd.com]

[Photo courtesy of Ryan Hoyme at MassageNerd.com]

Actually, you can start improving the outcomes of your massages today.  Just add these quick and simple exchanges to your current practice.

Before The Massage

  1. Before you leave the room from the pre-treatment interview, ask that your client be face up on the table when you return.
  2. When you return, ask them to notice how they feel on the table, and if they notice any differences from side to side.
  3. Ask them to identify any discomfort they have lying there, and to let you know where those areas of discomfort are.
  4. Ask them to shift around a little bit on one side and then the other.
  5. Take note what they answer, and whether one side is feeling more discomfort than the other.  This is in addition to your pre-treatment interview.
  6. Have them move into your preferred starting position for the massage.

During The Massage

  1. Choose one side on which to focus first.
  2. Complete your massage on that side (or quadrant), being sure to pay attention not just to the areas of discomfort they noticed, but any additional focus area agreed upon during the pre-treatment interview.
  3. After completing your sequence of massage techniques for that side but before moving to the other side, ask your client to check back in and notice any differences from side to side.
  4. Ask them to gently move the side of the body that has just been massaged, and to see what it feels like as they move.
  5. Then ask them to move the other side of the body for comparison.  Do they notice a difference?  Have there been any changes to the discomfort they noticed earlier?

After The Massage

  1. Having finished the massage, take an extra moment to have the client return to their original position, face up, on the table.
  2. Ask them to check back in and notice what they feel like on the table.
  3. Does it feel different than before the massage?
  4. Do they notice any differences from side to side?
  5. Does it feel more even?
  6. Has some of the discomfort dissipated?

Many of us like to interview our clients and jump right into the massage, skipping any dialogue in the middle.  Unfortunately, by massaging our clients without benchmarking in the middle, it can be difficult for clients to put a finger on how different they feel afterwards.  And if they can’t articulate those differences, many of the benefits of what we do go unnoticed.  By putting their own labels on how they are feeling before, during, and after the massage, we are able to help our clients concretely describe the benefits of the massage they are receiving, which also helps them to place more value in the work we do.

I began using these simple exchanges after studying the Feldenkrais Method.  I’ve noticed that clients are often surprised at how different one side feels from the other after just a few minutes of massage.  I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t take nearly as much time to achieve the same results on the second side, regardless of which side I work first (the one with more pain or less).

Try these and let me know how it goes in the comments!

Tonya

tonyaTonya Aiossa, LMT has been practicing massage in Tucson, Arizona since graduating from the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts in 2006.  She did one year of the Feldenkrais Method practitioner training in Berkeley, CA in 2008.  She taught massage at Cortiva Institute-Tucson from 2009 until 2013, when she left to open Advancing Massage Therapy in March 2014.  She is passionate about all things massage therapy, app development, philosophy (with an emphasis in ethics), and her little girl, Illy, who is five and adorable.