If you don’t have an experience as described below in your next therapeutic massage session, find another massage therapist straight away!
What you can expect from your massage therapist:
You can expect your massage therapist to be respectful of your physical sensation, your requests, your whole body, your emotions, your privacy, and anything else I forget to mention.
- You can expect your massage therapist to be communicative. For example, they will ask you questions (do an intake) before the session, to determine if you have any acute conditions or physical issues that require modifications.
- They will find out what specifically you’d like to focus on, if anything, if you have any allergies, if you have any preferences in a massage session.
- They’ll tell you what position to start in, they’ll check in with you a few times about pressure to make sure you are not in pain, and are receiving touch that feels beneficial to you.
- They may tell you of any follow up stretches or self-care techniques that might be helpful for any current issues.
- They’ll respond immediately when you make a request, and adjust the rest of the massage accordingly.
Work appropriate to professional training
You can expect your massage therapist to work according to their training and specialty. This varies greatly but there are common denominators. You can expect any or all of the following during a therapeutic massage:
- Hands-on massage and soft tissue techniques
- Hot/cold therapy
- Use of selective tools
A warm and professional welcome
A massage therapist may clearly and consistently advertise that they work on a specific population only. In that case, they may refer any potential new clients that do not fit the criteria. Aside from this circumstance and the rules of basic hygiene and common courtesy, you can expect your therapeutic massage practitioner to welcome you just as you are when you arrive at your first appointment.
You should feel welcome if you are male, female, transitioning, questioning, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, large, small, old, young, healthy, dealing with any non-contraindicated disease or health conditions, have un-manicured feet, have unshaven legs, and so on. Your massage therapist is a state licensed wellness practitioner. No discrimination of any kind is appropriate.
There are two reasons that a massage therapist may refuse treatment. The first would be the result of poor behavior on you part, and the situation should be obvious. The second is because in their professional opinion, you need to seek medical attention before safely receiving massage.
Quiet (or conversation, if desired)
See this post on conversation and quiet in a professional therapeutic massage.
What you should not expect and should not experience:
- Post-treatment pain – discomfort similar to post-workout aching in the worked areas, for 1-2 days following a therapeutic massage is normal. Pain of any kind, or discomfort for many days should be reported back and the treatment adjusted accordingly.
- Diagnosing – They shouldn’t tell you that your symptoms are the result of some condition that they think you have, unless an MD has already given you the diagnosis.
- Psychoanalysing – There should be no probing into your personal life or asking questions on topics you are not comfortable with. There should be no telling you that the pain in your hip is because of stored emotions.
- Sublaxation adjustments – There should be no chiropractic-style attempts to get your joints to ‘crack.’
- Extensive strengthening and exercise indications – some ideas of how to help balance out an issue and encouragement to try physical therapy if unexplored is one thing. However, unless the LMT is also a certified physical trainer, specializing in corrective exercise, they should not be giving detailed advice on how to correct muscular imbalances.
Read more in my Frequently Asked Questions blog series:
Can I talk during a therapeutic massage?
Will I be in pain during a therapeutic massage?
How should I feel after a therapeutic massage?
What is chair massage?
Do I need to be naked during a therapeutic massage?
What is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)?
What is a scope of practice? What is yours as an LMT?
What do you learn in massage school?
What kind of massage do you do?
What kind of music do you play during a massage?
Should I give you a tip after the massage?