• Why The Length of Your Massage Matters More Than You Think

    Massage Therapy

    You’ve probably seen the spa menu that offers a 50 minute massage, it’s pretty common. Your local wellness center  or independent massage therapist, on the other hand, probably offers a full 60 minute hour. I’ve even come across a chiropractor’s office that offers a 55 minute massage. That 55 minute hour is what prompted me to write this post. You might wonder why there’s so much variety in the length of an “hour massage,” and that’s a very good question. You might be surprised at the answer, and you might be even more surprised at how much it can affect the quality of the massage you receive.

    Why Massages Are Scheduled The Way They Are

    There are many factors to consider when deciding what length of time to assign to an hour massage and how much time to schedule in between massages. Not all are given equal consideration by schedulers.  The biggest considerations are usually:

    • Ease of scheduling – It’s easiest for both the business and the client to schedule massage on the hour every hour. This is especially true if a client needs an appointment time that will leave a gap in a therapist’s schedule, as neither the business nor the therapist want a gap that isn’t long enough to fill with a regular service.
    • Money – Both the therapist and the business wants to make as much money as possible and they do that by getting as many clients as possible on each day’s schedule. No judgement. That’s why businesses are open and why people work… to make money.
    • Customer service – This means different things to different people/businesses but encompasses things like: easy to remember appointment times (on the hour or half hour), giving the best massage possible, being able to give individualized attention both before and after the massage session, and having flexibility in the schedule to accommodate longer and shorter session times (30, 90, or 120 minutes).
    • Mind/Body/Spirit – When massage therapists don’t have enough time between sessions, they don’t give their best massage. Period. The amount of time needed varies by therapist temperament, the type of environment they work in, and what their job responsibilities are among things.

    What Your Therapist Has To Do Between Clients

    There are many things that therapists must either do between clients or at the end of the day.

    • Use the bathroom.
    • Eat.
    • Wait for the last client to get dressed and come out of the room. 
    • Clean the treatment room.
    • Chart the session.
    • Return phone calls and emails.

    Why Any Of This Matters To You

    Why does any of this matter? Can’t they just eat on their lunch break or pee while you’re getting on the table? In theory that’s a great idea. If they actually get a lunch break. If the restroom’s not in use. Many don’t get any  kind of break except for the one between clients, and that isn’t really a break as there is a lot of work to do in the 5-15 minutes that most therapists have between sessions.

    Here’s how each of the above items will impact you:

    • Bathroom. It’s nearly impossible to totally focus on the client during a massage while trying to hold your bladder. When your therapist doesn’t have an opportunity to use the bathroom between sessions, they will either have to excuse themselves partway through your session or will end up doing the potty dance during the latter part of your massage.
    • Eat. Massage is a physical job and requires us to eat and drink on a regular basis to keep up our energy. Even if we do lighter work and don’t really exert ourselves, you don’t want to hear our stomach growling part way through your session. Believe me.
    • Wait. Some clients take a full 5 minutes to come out of the room. If the previous client was slow to get up off the table and get dressed, the therapist could be behind schedule before they’re even able to get into the room to change the sheets. This is a big problem when sessions are 55 minutes long, thereby leaving only 5 minutes between clients.
    • Clean. In order to properly clean the room in between clients your therapist must: change the sheets/pillow cases/face cradle cover, take care of dirty linens, restock towels, clean/disinfect the counter, clean/disinfect their oil or lotion bottle, take care of water glass/candy wrapper/tea bag/etc.
    • Chart the session. In my state, Michigan, as well as many others, the law says that we have to chart on each and every massage session; even if it’s just a relaxation massage.  Even if it’s at a spa. Even if we don’t want to (and let’s be honest, no one gets into massage because they love charting). The best time to chart a session is right after it’s been completed. Why? Because that’s when it’s freshest in the mind. This is especially important if you see a massage therapist for any sort of muscle tension or pain. Accurate charting allows your therapist to revisit what they’ve done in the past and see what’s been effective and what hasn’t worked all that well. It’s also a great place for them to make notes on which candle/essential oil scent you love/hate, where you have painful arthritis, etc. You really want your therapist to accurately chart your sessions.
    • Return calls and email. Independent therapists who have their own office are the most likely to need to do this and *should have* built in enough time between sessions to be able to do this in a timely manner. Personally, I schedule half an hour in between clients for just this reason. If your therapist doesn’t leave enough time, it probably won’t affect your massage but it will affect your ability to get ahold of them to schedule or reschedule an appointment.

    I’ll bet you never knew how much that 5-30 minute break in between sessions could impact the massage you receive. Now, I’d like to ask you all a question and I’d love you to reply in the comments.

    Are you a therapist? How much time to you leave between sessions and why?

    Are you a client? What surprised you the most about the information I shared?

3 Responses so far.

  1. I’m a therapist. I both work for myself and for a chiropractor. Usually, we get 15 minutes between sessions at the chiropractor, and are scheduled for one hour sessions (sometimes we end up with back-to-back sessions) and we get an extra 15 around lunchtime. You’re right – we’re usually pretty busy between sessions, charting and rescheduling. The chiropractor doesn’t care if we only massage for 50-55 minutes and that extra 5 minutes can make a huge difference, especially if someone talks for a long time before they get on the table, or moves slowly getting on or off after their session.
    At home, I almost always schedule a half an hour between people. That way I can work for a full hour, do a thorough intake and outtake, talk about exercises and other home care issues, and stay on schedule.

  2. Ransford Afari says:

    I am a Therapist running my own business. It’s pretty doing well with great time intervals between sessions. I get to, naturally rest well and do all one could do with more than a Break Time. However, your post is very helpful and will support. Me to readjust my time should my parlor become busy. Thank you. Randyreflexmassage@gmail.com

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