In my line of work I come across a multitude of different people from different backgrounds and wanting different things from the session and their massage therapist. It continuously amazes me with how different everyone is that there are a few things a vast majority of clients ask. Here are the most common questions asked- outside of modalities, price, availability, etc:
1) “Is it normal when I do this and it <insert description of something>?”
Yes, generally speaking. If you’re asking if it’s normal for the specific situation, the answer is probably yes- as long as the massage therapist has all the information necessary to assess properly. Is it normal for a perfectly healthy person to have happening what your happening? That answer is probably no. But then again, if you are seeing a massage therapist for a specific issue, then it’s a little self defeating to compare your situation to a “perfectly healthy” person.
If there is something out of the ordinary- or out of the massage therapist’s scope of practice- the massage therapist will tell you (and probably refer you to someone who’s scope of practice encompasses that particular issue).
All in all, there is a lot that is normal in the human body, even in it’s dysfunction!
2) “What can I do to help between sessions?”
Homework! if you’re coming in to see us for s specific problem (stress, injury, whatever), chances are we’re going to give some homework to do between sessions. Stretching, relaxation techniques, hot baths, ice, whatever the case may be- do it. Be vigilant about it. It will only help you on the road to health.
And if the homework isn’t working- for whatever reason- tell the therapist. They may gain greater insight into what’s going on!
3) “I forgot to shave, sorry”
Honestly, we probably didn’t even notice. The creams, lotions, and oils we use are specifically designed to deal with all sorts of skin. Besides, if hairy or stubbly legs were an issue for us, none of us would have male clients.
4)”Are you a Masseuse or a Massuer?”
Well, OK, this is an uncomfortable question for most massage therapists. Why? Because it has a strong sexual connotation associated with it. Within the massage community, the phrase “Masseuse” is used for those who massage and sexually gratify. Which is sad, because the original meaning of the term is much less nefarious.
Originally, the term was French and was used to describe a female in the very legitimate business of giving massages and other physiotherapy work. The term “massuer” is simply the male version of it.
But, since then, the term has been highjacked by poorly trained prostitutes offering their “services”. So please, we’re massage practitioners or massage therapists. Whats the difference between the two? It’s a matter of education. Generally those with less than 500 hours of education are massage practitioners, whole those with over 500 hours of professional education are massage therapists.
5) “I’d really like a deep tissue massage. Can you do that?”
Most likely yes. With that being said, the real question isn’t weather we can do it, but if you (the client) understands what deep tissue- or any other modality- really is.
All too often clients- many of them who are new to massage in general- come in asking for a specific modality. And most massage therapists will simply assume that the client knows what they are asking for.
This is not always the case- and with deep tissue work, this can cause a miserable session for both the client (who is feeling really beat up) and the therapist (who is frustrated over the clear miscommunication).
If you are unsure on what any modality consists of, please ask! Most massage therapists are very open to “talk shop” with anyone willing to listen. And when in doubt, go into a session with a goal, or desired outcome, and a basic idea of the type of pressure you might like. And never be afraid to ask questions!
6) “You don’t have to leave, it will only take me a minute to get on the table”
Unfortunately, yes, we do have to leave. State law requires us to not be present in a room where a client is disrobing. Even if it’s of the same gender and down to just undergarments.
7) “I’m not going to be sore, am I?”
Probably not- but there are a lot of factors that play into this. Massage therapists, generally speaking, do not like leaving their clients sore. Typically it’s an indication of a therapist not paying attention to pressure or repetition.
But there are other factors that play into it as well. The level of soreness prior to the appointment, the modalities used during the session, the injury itself, the condition of the muscles, the aftercare or lack of, the activities engaged in by the client after the session, and the clients perception of soreness or pain all play into the soreness factor (as well as a multitude of other factors not listed, because even my web host has bandwidth limits).
In general, if it’s a deep tissue session, the client may feel some minor soreness afterwards and it shouldn’t last for very long. Lighter touch modalities almost never have any soreness associated with it- but the more intensive the session, the greater probability of soreness. More experienced Massage Therapists know how to work in order to reduce the chances of muscle soreness after a session. If soreness persists into the next day, be sure and tell your therapist so they can adjust the techniques and pressure used during the session.
8) “How many sessions will it take to get rid of my pain?”
Chances are very good that your pain was not caused in a day. And most pain that is results from a traumatic injury of some sort. It takes time to heal, and very often it takes a multidisciplinary approach for the fastest recovery. Sometimes it helps to think of pain like a habit.
It takes work to break a habit. It takes a lot of retraining- of doing things differently, of creating new, healthy habits to replace the old. The longer you’ve lived with a habit, the harder it is to break. Pain is no different. It all takes time. And many times, it’s a guessing game as to how long it will actually take to return to a pain free life (sometimes it doesn’t happen at all, depending on the injuries). Because of the different factors involved, there is no accurate way to guess. Massage therapist do work very hard at resolving pain issues as fast as they can, but it all takes time!
9) “I have this <issue> up here and it bothers me all the time.” then “Why didn’t I get a full body massage?”
Most massage therapists can take direction really well. Our goal is to help you feel better and so if you tell us you have pain in a certain area we will typically assign that area a higher priority then other areas. By the same token, if you specifically state that you want a full body massage, we will fit as much of the body in as we can in the time allotted in your appointment.
Here’s where it comes in. In the beginning we’ll typically ask if there is any areas you need us to concentrate on, any problem areas, and any areas you want us to stay away from. that is your time to state what you want us to work on. If at that point you state a certain area, but what you really want is a full body massage, you will probably not get what you want.
Have a goal in mind when you come to the session- even if that goal is to simply relax. Knowing that goal will guide the massage therapist to providing you a very successful session!
10) “And then <incident> happened and… I’m sorry, I don’t mean to dump all of this on you”
Not all healing that happens on the table is physical. Many times, incidents in our lives effect us physically- even if they were not physical in nature. The emotional toll seems to take up residence in the muscles (in a very physical sense) and in releasing those muscles it helps to release the emotions linked to them. There is a symbiotic relationship between our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Massage therapists understand this and fully expect that an emotional release may happen.
It may come as a cleansing sigh or breath, tears, and sometimes a need to talk through it. Most massage therapist can handle a little conversation during a session, especially if it helps. It’s important to remember though that we’re more like bar tenders or hairstylists and less like psychologists. We’ll let you work through it, and maybe even sympathize through stories or offer offer tidbits of advice on the occasion, but that’s the best we can do. Please don’t be offended if we suggest you talk to someone better qualified- it’s not meant to be an insult. We do care about you, and we want to make sure you get everything you need to help you heal the best and fastest way possible.
Keeping these ten things in mind will definitely add to a better, more successful session where the needs of the client are met, with little to no wasted time!