We all tend to assume our clients know what to expect from a massage session even when they have never experienced a professional massage. Take a look at some common things that even our regular clients may not know:
- Positioning. Put your face in the face cradle! New clients, especially those who have never had a massage, may not know how to get on the table. It is helpful to explain to them how their face goes into the face cradle when they are face down and that the bolster is meant to go under their ankles, or under their knees when face up. It is also a good idea to explain that they should get under the top sheet and blanket, but on top of the bottom sheet. Many new clients end up either under all of the sheets or lying naked on top of them when we come in. Awkward…for them and us!
- I’m Freezing! Encourage clients to tell you if they are cold or uncomfortable or to tell you if they are hot and uncomfortable. Basically, they should tell us if anything is interfering with their ability to completely relax physically so we may adjust it to make them comfortable. If their body cannot relax, the massage is not as pleasant for them and becomes more difficult for us as we fight against their body’s tension in response to the unpleasant stimulus. A good massage begins when they get on the table, take that deep breath and relax.
- We’ve Got it Covered. They will be covered by the top sheet and/or blanket during their massage. Many new clients experience anxiety about being exposed and are unsure how the draping works during a professional massage. Many do not know how we move the sheet, tucking and folding it so that they are not exposed. A quick explanation goes a long way toward putting them at ease.
- Call Out Sick. Don’t come in for a massage when sick. Massage therapy is contraindicated for the client because it may intensify their illness and exacerbate the symptoms. It is also not pleasant to lie face down when stuffy and having symptoms. In addition to that, massage therapists cannot work when we are sick, and sick clients are putting us in jeopardy of getting sick by exposing us to their cold.
- Ouch! Let clients know they should tell us if something hurts. While discomfort may be a normal part of working on problem muscles, pain is not. On a pain scale of 1 through 10, we never want clients to allow us to work past their pain tolerance of level 6 or 7. Uncomfortable is one thing, painful another. Also, the client should always be able to breathe through the work as we go along. If at any time they cannot do that or the discomfort is simply too much, it is time to lighten up, change technique or do something to ease their misery. It is a good idea to explain to men, especially “tough” guys, that we not only have the advantage of leverage, but trigger points hurt – in everybody. There is no shame in saying it hurts too much.
- Success Through Progression. Massage therapists work through a progression of techniques: Swedish to warm up an area, petrissage (Read “Massage Stroke Review: Petrissage“) to get blood flowing, then deeper work and trigger point work, followed by a final effleurage (Read “Massage Stroke Review: Effleurage“) or flushing of the area. We do not just dive into the problem spot with deep work. Warming up the muscles not only makes it easier for us to get into the muscle, but it makes it less painful for the client. It also makes our work more successful, as muscles will tense up when we jump right into deep work.
- Boys Will Be Boys! Men often have a physical response to massage, often without even being aware of it. It is common to have men sound asleep on the table while this is happening! As long as the client is not behaving inappropriately while this is going on, we will adjust the massage or move to a different area. If there is no inappropriate action on the client’s part, we simply ignore this and move on.
- Do Your Homework. I worked with a woman who used to explain to clients: “You didn’t get this way in one hour, we can’t undo it in one hour.” Someone who commutes long distances, then sits at a computer for eight hours at work is going to have problems from repetitious use of the same muscles. A one-hour treatment, once a month is not going to undo that. This is why we give clients stretches that they can do throughout the day, to combat this type of repetitive muscle use. Doing their homework really will help.
- Bags and Shoes, Oh My! Carrying heavy bags and wearing high heeled shoes is a surefire way to create muscle imbalances and pain in the body. If a client is in pain, advising them to be aware of and change these types of things will go a long way toward improving their posture and decreasing their pain.
- Deeper Is Not Always Better. Occasionally a client wants deeper work than what is prudent. Usually, these clients are so out of touch with their bodies they do not feel anything, no matter how deep we work. Work with these clients to help them relax and focus on their physical body while working slowly and deliberately, helping them to tune in to their physical beings.
We cannot always assume that clients know what to expect during a professional massage session. These are some common things to keep in mind while working with clients, both regulars and new alike.