Communication is the Key to a Great Massage
By Mary Kathleen Rose
Receiving a massage is a time to rest and rejuvenate as you experience the deeply nourishing effects of skillful touch. As your muscles relax and your mind unwinds, do you ever wonder how to talk with your massage therapist or bodyworker? Here are some guidelines about what to expect regarding verbal communication before, during, and after a session.
Before The Session
Before your the hands-on session, you will fill out a client Health Intake Form with contact information, medical history, and your reasons for receiving massage. Your therapist will ask you, "Is there anything I need to be aware of?" Share any relevant information in order to ensure that you receive a session that is appropriate and safe for you. For example, if you have had recent surgery or an injury, it is important that the therapist know, in order to avoid causing further injury or discomfort. This is your opportunity to tell your therapist what you need and to state your preferences for the kind of bodywork you like, and the parts of your body most needing attention. You can say what kind of techniques or degree of pressure you like. You can state your intention: "I need overall relaxation," or "My neck is in a lot of pain. Could you spend some extra time on that?"
During The Session
As you receive the hands-on work of the session, your therapist will ask, "How is the pressure I am using?" Give your honest feedback. After all, the therapist wants to accommodate your needs and preferences. Do not hesitate to speak up if anything is uncomfortable to you. Specify if you want more or less pressure, more or less of a particular technique, or if you want specific attention to an area of your body.
A massage is a time to relax, so you can expect that your therapist will be quiet and attentive. If you find that he or she is more talkative than you like, you can say something like, "Would it be okay if we talk after the session? I'd prefer silence while receiving a massage." On the other hand, if you like to talk, and it is helpful for you to talk--either about what you are experiencing in your body, or simply as a way of letting go of the stress of the day--that is completely okay.
What is most important to remember is that this is your time to be nurtured. It is appropriate that the practitioner respond to your preferences. It is not a time for the therapist to carry on a personal conversation or talk in any way that detracts from your experience.
After The Session
Following the session, the therapist may ask, "How do you feel now?" or ask about a specific issue that was addressed in the session. Share anything that occurs to you that might be useful feedback. For example, you might say: "I feel great. Just what I needed!" or "I loved that work on my feet. Do you think we could spend more time on that next session?" This brings closure to the session and also gives an idea about what you might expect in a future visit.
It is important to know that bodyworkers provide their services based on their specific training. It is not appropriate for massage therapists to answer medical questions that are beyond the range of their knowledge and/or legal scope of practice. The value of therapeutic massage and bodywork lies in skillful application of appropriate technique, as well as the sense of ease that is created by quality, mutual communication.
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, March/April 2010.