Reasons NOT to Love a Massage

I’ve gotten a lot of massage in the last 9 years. From students, new practitioners, well-seasoned therapists and instructors. I’ve gotten massage in spas, clinics, school, trade show floors and home offices. I’ve been worked on by practitioners who knew I was also an LMT and those who thought I was still a restaurant manager.

Of them, there are just a handful that I remember as truly spectacular. Yeah, I’m a VERY opinionated client. When I’m slapping down my money, I am super picky and highly critical. Check out this list of massage complaints I’ve wracked up in my years as a massage consumer. (The complaints are mostly in my head, I haven’t always expressed them to the therapist or establishment. More on that later.)

There was no intake form.
There was an intake form, and the therapist commented negatively on my medications, suggesting that if I got more massage, I wouldn’t need an SSRI.
The therapist didn’t me instruction on what to wear/not wear or how to place myself on the table.
There was no knee or ankle bolster.
There was no pillow for under my head.
The room was too warm.
The room was too cold.
The music was too loud.
The music was too soft.
There was no music.
The music included water noises/nature sounds/chanting monks.
The massage table was hard.
The face cradle didn’t adjust.
There were no tissues in the massage room.
It was noisy, I could hear other clients coming and going.
The therapist didn’t address my neck/shoulder/knee or whatever I specially requested. Or they did address it, but didn’t spend enough time there.
Or they spent too much time there, but skipped the secondary issue I pointed out.
Or they spent too much time there, overworked the area, and I was bruised and sore. THIS HAPPENS MORE OFTEN THAN I CAN BELIEVE.
The therapist used too much pressure.
The therapist didn’t use enough pressure.
I asked for more or less pressure and the therapist acknowledged my request but didn’t actually change the pressure.
The therapist told me to breathe through the pain she was causing.
The therapist initiated a lot of side conversation.
She lifted the sheet way up when I turned over, making me feel exposed and cold.
They did that and then made eye contact with me in a strangely placed mirror in the room while I turned over.
I made a request to adjust the heat/music/pressure and the therapist seemed put out.
The therapist’s hands smelled like cigarettes/garlic/curry.
The therapist used a ton of oil and left me greasy, or got lots of oil in my hair after I requested that not happen.
Cheap, low quality massage oil or lotion.
Got scratched repeatedly by long fingernail.
The therapist used a scented product without asking me.
The therapist sniffled through the whole massage and I’m pretty sure her nose dripped on my back.
The office was dirty.
The therapist sold nutritional or health products or gave advice out of their scope of practice.
The therapist made deliberate chiropractic style rapid adjustments to my neck.
The therapist commented on my tattoo/stretch marks/apparent fitness level.
With no warning, the therapist left the room in the middle of the treatment, then came back. Never said why.
The therapist made fun of me for snoring.
The therapist used one hand to massage me, and one hand to text people. Or once, to eat a sandwich.
There was no hook, chair or basket for my clothes, had to just pile my clothes on the floor.
The therapist told me the names of all of our colleagues who she had treated.
The therapist spoke negatively about other clients.
I saw her take cream from a bowl that was clearly used with the client before me and obviously cross-contaminated. Ditto that for tubes that haven’t been wiped off.
The tube or bottle of lotion was noisy. Every time they went for more. Every. Time.

With all this said, let’s take a moment to appreciate that I’ve also given some lousy massages in my career (mostly at the beginning, I hope). I’ve probably even committed a bunch of the offenses I complain about.

Moreover, I also realize that many, many of my complaints could have been resolved quickly if I had spoken up. Sometimes I do. Other times I feel like it’s futile. That’s on me. Kinda. It’s also up to the therapist to create an environment where I feel comfortable speaking up. That hasn’t always happened.

But my long career as a really picky client is part of what makes me a better massage therapist now. More importantly, it’s what makes me very receptive to your feedback. I know how annoying it is to put your money and time into a massage and not feel satisfied with the experience. I know what it is to leave a massage office feeling like the therapist missed that ‘one spot’ between my shoulder blades that I really wanted worked on.

When you tell me the pressure is too much, I won’t ask you to breathe through it. I’ll back off and find a better way to treat the area. If you’re cold, or warm, or hate the music, I’ll make it better. When you tell me, I won’t be annoyed or put out. I will not think you are high-maintenance. If you make a short conversation and I get too chatty, I will not be offended if you cue me to hush up by saying, “Okay, I’m gonna be quiet now so I can enjoy this massage.”

When you make a request, I will be utterly pleased that you are speaking up, so I can make the experience perfect for you. For reals. I won 2nd place in Best of the Best Tampa Bay Times Reader’s Poll in 2019, and I really want you to enjoy your session.

See you on the table soon!

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