Straight Talk

What Your Massage Therapist Needs To Know

By Angela England

Originally published in Body Sense, Autumn/Winter 2009.

One of the benefits of regular massage is the sense of camaraderie and familiarity you develop with your therapist. You know your way around the office and your therapist knows that certain spot that holds your tension, so you may not have to complete the customary intake procedure most first-timers go through. However, sometimes it is best to pause from your typical routine, take a minute to talk with your therapist, and revisit the intake process.

Whenever you feel the need to speak with your therapist about a medical change, physical concern, or other issue, it is helpful to mention this when you schedule the appointment. If that isn’t possible, just ask to talk when you first arrive. Your therapist can better concentrate on your question before the session instead of during your session.

Even a simple, “I had a long car ride this weekend and have noticed a particularly tight place in my hips,” can be helpful for your therapist. More serious concerns may take a little longer to work through, but being honest with your massage therapist about any changes will help you get your needs met.
Following are a few specific items your massage therapist should know.

A Doctor's Visit or New Medications

Even though you probably filled out a medical history form when you first came in for a treatment, there are certain things that make it necessary to revisit your medical information. For example, if you have seen the doctor for a routine checkup and have been diagnosed with a particular illness or medical condition, you should let your therapist know. You should also speak up if you are taking any new medications.

Some medical circumstances would preclude you from receiving massage, while others might just change the way your practitioner approaches your session. For example, if you are pregnant, you can still get a massage or spa treatments, but your therapist might change the techniques. Other medical conditions you should mention include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic autoimmune diseases, or skin allergies. All of these, and many other medical conditions, can affect your sessions.

A New or Acute Injury

Maybe you spent hours driving to a destination getaway and your shoulders ache. Or you walked off the porch step and sprained your ankle. Any time you have a new ache, pain, sprain, twist, or muscle pull, you should be sure to mention it to your therapist.

When an injury is in the acute stage, your massage therapist will probably avoid direct pressure on the site. Depending on the location and extent of your injury, the treatment session may have to be postponed altogether, or the injury site may have to be avoided. For example, if you have twisted your ankle, your massage therapist may avoid working on the foot area until it is healed, but could continue to massage your back and shoulders as usual.

Sometimes it isn’t about a new injury, but rather just an ache or pain. Maybe you strained your back gardening or spent more time than usual on the computer. Perhaps a tension headache struck this week. All of these little complaints are clues that your therapist can use to make sure that your session is personalized for your specific needs that day.

Personal Preferences
This is the third, less obvious category, but it is equally important. Everyone has unique preferences and sometimes there may be something you would like to change at your next massage. A colleague summed it up when she said, “A massage session is about the client. If they would like something changed I am happy to do so, but I have to know what they want.” Most therapists would quickly agree with her. Whether you want to bring your own music, or find the room chilly and want an extra blanket, your therapist will quickly adapt if you mention your preferences.

Even in our set routines, change can occur. The key to keeping a successful and positive relationship with your massage therapist is communication. Any time your physical health changes, even temporarily, a simple mention when you first arrive can help your therapist make the session the most effective it can be for you.