The Difference Between A Good Massage & A Great One

For me the difference between a good massage and a great one is when the therapist provides the perfect amount of pressure. I want enough to feel relief in the achy, sore areas of my body, not so much that I’m holding my breath, but more than feeling like the therapist is just spreading oil all over me. I think most of you would agree.

Often there are two problems that get in the way of achieving the perfect pressure:

1) The therapist fails to inquire about the pressure, or does but doesn’t adjust/readjust.

2) The client does not communicate their preference due to fear of speaking up, coming across as insulting, or thinking the therapist knows best.

As a massage therapist, when I want to find that perfect pressure for my client (especially a new one), I’ve learned that I can’t rely solely on my intuition. While, my instincts and hands usually lead me to the “good” range of pressure, further fine-tuning requires me to ask.

Over the years I have learned that how I ask about pressure is equally as important as the inquiry itself.

I used to ask: “How’s the pressure?” It’s simple, doesn’t require too much chatter, and it had become a habit… but this question is fatally flawed. Why? Because it has a polite answer.

“Fine.”

Sure, the client may be squirming under too much pressure, or wishing for more on their achy shoulders, but they’ll answer “fine” nonetheless. It’s not entirely accurate, but it’s polite. 

I’ve realized that if I changed the way I asked, it would yield more accurate feedback and provide an opportunity for the client to respond honestly without feeling uncomfortable. When you are on my table I will ask you……”How’s the pressure? Would you like more, or less than this?”

If we’ve adjusted the pressure I will follow up with: “Is this enough, or would you like even more/less?” It turns out that many clients who had been giving me the “fine” answer were secretly wishing for quite a bit more or less, and I never would have known had I not changed my way of asking!

At times when I have asked about pressure I’ve often had clients respond with, “you’re the therapist, you know what’s best” Yes we as massage therapists have the knowledge of when a certain pressure may not be appropriate, such as deep pressure to a client on blood thinners. Our experience and hands also help guide us to the pressure we feel will bring about the best outcome, but you are the expert on your body. The goal is to have a partnership that marry both therapist knowledge and client guidance to produce optimal results and massage experience. Any therapist that tells you what pressure is best for you barring any contraindications and clinical judgement needs a quick ego check.

As a client it is important to realize the right amount of pressure is soooooo subjective. What one client thinks is perfect another will think is too deep, or too light. Even as an individual, your preference may change from treatment to treatment. Your perfect pressure could be wildly different than every other client your therapist has treated. So if you have ever felt hesitant to ask your therapist to make adjustments please understand the only way we know we are getting it right is through your feedback. It is not only welcomed, it is essential to help us tailor the treatment to your specific needs. Truly it makes our job much easier. One little adjustment in pressure can make all the difference in the world between receiving a good massage or a great one! 

My intention is to create an environment where clients feel comfortable to express honest feedback. When you are a client of mine, I want you to feel empowered and know that you are the true expert in the room when it comes to your unique body. If I am unable to provide your preferred pressure, I would be happy to refer you to an awesome colleague that may be a better fit. My goal is to work with you to achieve the perfect pressure to make sure your massage is a great one 🙂

Ready for a great massage? Book your treatment today.

See you on the massage table soon 🙂



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